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Dicamba usage on soybean crops expected to double in 2018

Soybean blooms begin to show on a soybean crop. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 3
Soybean blooms begin to show on a soybean crop. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 3
A soybean field north of Mitchell. (Republic file photo)3 / 3

The amount of dicamba-tolerant soybeans in South Dakota is on the rise — and so are the trainings for the "touchy" herbicide.

According to Tom Gere, assistant director of the Division of Agriculture Services for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA), the amount of soybeans tolerant for the dicamba products was roughly 25 percent of South Dakota's more than 5 million acres of soybeans in 2017. And for 2018, Gere said officials are estimating the number to rise to 50 percent.

"There's definitely a need for these products in controlling weeds," Gere said. "We have a lot of weeds in South Dakota. It's a great tool from that aspect. It gives a farmer another option in weed control. Some areas are a little bit tougher to control than others."

Dicamba is a herbicide that selectively kills weeds, and is often used in conjunction with other herbicides. Recently the SDDA has registered three dicamba products for the 2018 growing season. Engenia, XtendiMax with VaporGrip technology and FeXapan herbicide have been approved, and the labels will expire Dec. 20.

The SDDA will use the federal EPA stamped label for use within the state, and per the label the dicamba products are now restricted use products. This means, Gere said, the applicator must be certified to both purchase and apply the products. To do so, all persons who apply the products must also complete mandatory dicamba-specific training.

"They're pretty touchy products, which would be a good way to put it in regards to the application of them," Gere said. "You really got to read and follow the directions and read and follow the label to a 'T' to get it applied properly."

Gere said there are planned trainings set up for later this year, and any interested growers need to preregister for the event. The reason for the training, Gere said, is because dicamba's active ingredient has a tendency to move after application depending on environmental conditions. There's a gamut of reasons for this issue, Gere said, which can range from improper mixture to improper application.

But that's what the further restrictions will help combat. Some other restrictions include spraying the product between sunrise and sunset on a given day, as well as applying only in wind speeds between 3 and 10 mph. Last year, the speed was between 3 and 15 mph.

"The way we handle the application in every field, every time it will impact the future of these products and agriculture in South Dakota," Gere said. "It's important that people take time to plan ahead and making sure being good neighbors and good stewards of this technology."

Gere urges future farmers and applicators of the product to be aware of the cutoff date for usage. The cutoff date for applying the herbicide will vary between states and will be placed within the EPA label.

But on top of being aware of the regulations, Gere said farmers are going to have to put in a lot more planning with their soybeans. This includes talking to neighbors and surrounding farmers of the product in place.

"These products, you're not just going to get out of bed in the middle of June and say 'Oh, I'm going to go spray some dicamba today,' " Gere said. "You've got to get properly certified to apply the products. You've got to pay attention to fields that are surrounding you too."

And Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers agrees.

"As a producer myself, I understand the time and energy that farmers put into their crop each season," Jaspers said in a press release. "What is important to note for everyone is that these new label restrictions will require more planning, for both growers and applicators, this year prior to the planting season, as well as during the application season."

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