Sometimes when you know the history you understand the urgency of the present. For Jackson County, Okla., cotton grower Tim Miller, remembering a time when cotton production was threatened by resistant weeds puts into perspective the requirements and rules for dicamba application.
“There sure is a lot of paperwork to fill out,” says Miller, who produced his 37th cotton crop in 2017. “It’s going to take more time and effort, but as long as we can keep this technology where we can get it, then we need to do what we can. It is a valuable tool and we need it badly to control weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate.”
Miller was among the 213 growers/applicators who attended Oklahoma’s first mandatory dicamba training meeting at Altus, Jan. 17, following the Red River Crops Conference.
“It’s important that we protect this chemistry so that we can use it in the future,” says Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “If we have some of the examples that happened, particularly in Arkansas, there could be a move to restrict the chemical even more, and we don’t want that because we think the new chemistry and the new seed is more beneficial and more efficient for our farmers.”
The training is part of the federal requirements for all applicators of the new dicamba formulations in the Xtend cropping systems, says training presenter Dr. Todd Baughman, Oklahoma State University weed scientist. “Not only must they go through the training but anyone they have applying the product for them must go through the training, which is a little different than some of the other rules and regs we’ve had in the past.
“I think there’s a lot of good information in the training. I think one of the biggest things that we learned this year, in order not to have issues with this product, is the sensitivity and potential increase in volatility with AMS (Ammonium Sulfate) and how important maintaining the cleanout is in all parts of the system.”
If purchasing used spray equipment, Baughman advises applicators consider replacing all hoses, nozzles and screens, while also thoroughly cleaning out the tank before use. “You don’t always know the history of that equipment,” he says.
“The simplest thing you can do, is to make sure you clean that tank out, clean the system out before you use it,” says Baughman, who had producers who had issues with leftover herbicide trapped in the rubber hoses on their used equipment, which eventually came out months later. “So, anything that is rubber that the herbicide can sit in or absorb into, it’s very important to change out if you have that ability.”
Not every grower at the training used dicamba in 2017, but Dallas Geis, a cotton, wheat and cattle producer in Comanche County, Okla., says it is still an important tool. “If I don’t have to use it, I won’t. But it is a nice tool to have in our tool box,” says Geis, who’s been growing cotton for 47 years. “Due to poor stewardship from other producers, it’s going to make it much more difficult to use this technology, so we need to be good stewards of it in order to have it in the future.”
Like many Oklahoma growers, Geis has increased his cotton acres, while controlling his weed issues early in the season. “Usually, we like to grow a cotton crop, let it lay out for two years while growing wheat, run our stockers and then rotate back to cotton. But with the price of wheat where it is, we’re kind of shortening up that rotation. So, we’ve kind of increased our cotton acres over the last couple of years.
“We didn’t have many escapes with pigweeds, so we were able to take care of it with preemergence herbicides and burndown treatments. But glyphosate resistant pigweeds are becoming a big problem in this part of the world, and that’s the biggest reason we need to have dicamba in our tool box.”
Miller, who used to plant half wheat and half cotton, has gone to all cotton. “It’s our plan to do that again, but weed control is something we’ve got to stay on top of or it’s going to take us out of business,” says Miller. “With that being said, anything we can do to protect this technology, we need to do it. There’s going to be people that don’t follow directions and we are very fortunate that in this county we didn’t have many complaints at all.”
In fact, very few complaints were filed statewide. “Fortunately, in both Oklahoma and Texas we didn’t have near the issues that they had east of us,” says Baughman. “I think that if we can just do the things that are recommended in this training, do the things we’ve done in the past, I think we can continue to have success with this technology.”
While documentation is nothing new for herbicide applicators, the documentation required by law for dicamba differs some. “On the label there’s additional record keeping requirements,” explains Baughman during the dicamba training. “The applicator must keep those records for two years, and they must be generated within 14 days after the application. These records must be made available to state and federal officials upon request if there is an issue.”
In addition to documenting specifics such as total amount of herbicide applied, location of the application, and the size of the treated area, applicators are also required to list their training date, provider and proof of completion, which will be provided by the state Department of Agriculture. New for applicators to include is a receipt of purchase for the product, Baughman says.
Prior to application, applicators will need record that they have consulted a sensitive crop registry. “In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry is in the process of updating what’s called an Environmental Sensitive Area Registry,” explains Baughman. “I went on there and registered our greenhouses at Ardmore. It’s a fairly simple process. I would encourage you to encourage anyone you know, whether they are a vegetable grower, growing grapes or if they’re growing a non-dicamba tolerant crop, to register those farms or areas on this. Again, the better data we have in there, the more useful that tool will be for us.”
Another new requirement is the confirmation of sprayer cleanout before and after use. “Before you start into the Xtend system, there has to be documentation of the cleanout before you start. The reason for that is the concern of the potential tank mix partner, especially AMS, that might have been in that system before, and getting that cleaned out so that we don’t increase volatility with these new products,” says Baughman.
Several cleanout regulation documentations have been added as well. For example, once an applicator shuts down for the evening, Baughman says, the applicator is required to clean out the system. “We don’t want to see this sitting in systems or sprayer lines, so the requirement is to clean each evening. And then once you move out of that system into a different system, or from Xtend cotton to spraying grain sorghum, then you’ve got to clean that system out and have that documented before you move to another crop.”
The brand names and EPA registration numbers of each tank mix product must be listed as well. “Again, make sure you are using the correct tank mix and that they are part of those websites as approved tank mix products. That includes things like surfactants and drift retardants agents as well as tank mix herbicide products,” says Baughman.
Documentation, from start to finish, will also be required for: time of application, air temperature and wind speed at the boom. “The other thing I’m recommending growers do is check their closest Mesonet and have documentation if that’s different than what they’re reading in the field at the boom,” says Baughman. “Obviously, the easiest thing to double check from a regulatory standpoint is our Mesonet sites in Oklahoma.”
The nozzle manufacturer/brand, type, orifice size and operating pressure all must be recorded, says Baughman, to make sure applicators are in the proper settings for those particular nozzles. “And record any buffer distances calculated, any areas included within, such as a 30-foot paved road and an 80- foot corn field that needs to be documented as part of your buffer area.”
On a practical level, Geis says he documents his applications on the application forms he keeps in a three-ring binder in his pickup. Miller, who farms with his sons, says they maintain their records with their iPads. “Everything will be documented. We use John Deere guidance systems, machinery link, so we can document on our GPS systems. It’s going to take a little more time to be exact, but no doubt, if it keeps this technology viable for us to be able to get it and use, we need it.”
Geis’ is in a wait and see position on a weed management plan in 2018. “Our herbicide program has been working well. We rotate a lot of chemistry on our fallow ground, so hopefully we don’t develop resistance. They say to start off clean and keep it clean. And as long as Mother Nature will cooperate and we can do our timely herbicide applications, then hopefully we won’t have to use the XtendiMax or the Engenia. But if we do, it’s nice to have that tool. Every year is different. We’ll go with what we’ve been doing, and if we have to adapt, we will.”