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A robust trifoliate soybean leaf, left, compares to one apparently shriveled and curled by a herbicide that farmer Steve Larson of Enderlin, N.D., suspects is dicamba herbicide damage. Photo taken July 9, 2018, at Enderlin, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

EPA extends dicamba registration for two years

WASHINGTON — Declaring that dicamba "is a valuable pest control tool for America's farmers," Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced Oct. 31 the agency was extending by two years the conditional registration for the herbicide to be used "over the top" to control weeds in dicamba-resistant soybeans and cotton.

The agency, which added additional restrictions to the use of the three registered dicamba products, said in a news release the decision "was informed by input from and extensive collaboration between EPA, state regulators, farmers, academic researchers, pesticide manufacturers and other stakeholders."

Bayer, the manufacturer of both Xtendimax and the seeds that go with it, said the decision "ensures that growers will have access to this vital weed-control tool for the 2019 season and beyond."

"XtendiMax is a highly effective, proven broadleaf weed control option that is delivering results for farmers, who have reported 95 percent weed control satisfaction over the last two seasons," said Ryan Rubischko, Bayer's dicamba portfolio lead.

The Center for Biological Diversity, however, harshly criticized the agency for continuing to allow the use of the herbicide with "minor new restrictions," despite having "damaged an estimated 5 million acres of crops, trees and backyard gardens over the past two years." CBD is among groups suing EPA for its initial decision to register dicamba two years ago.

EPA said it was extending the registration for "all dicamba products" until Dec. 20, 2020 — Xtendimax, Corteva Agriscience's FeXaPan, and BASF's Engenia, the registration for which was due to expire Dec. 20. Both Xtendimax and FeXaPan's registrations were due to expire Nov. 9.

EPA did not release the new label, but said in its release it "was making the following label changes" for the 2019-20 growing seasons:

• Only certified applicators may apply dicamba over the top (those working under the supervision of a certified applicator may no longer make applications).

• Over-the-top application of dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting and cotton 60 days after planting is prohibited.

• For cotton, over-the-top applications are cut from four to two (soybeans remain at two over-the-top applications).

• Applications will be allowed only from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset.

• In counties where endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other sides of the field (the 110-foot downwind buffer applies to all applications, not just in counties where endangered species may exist).

EPA also said it was clarifying the training period for 2019 and beyond to ensure "consistency across all three products" and said there would be "enhanced tank clean-out instructions for the entire system" as well as an "enhanced label to improve applicator awareness on the impact of low pHs on the potential volatility of dicamba."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said EPA's decision followed a "very thorough scientific review, involving site visits and careful consideration of facts." He urged producers who use the weed control method to "review the label, understand why changes have been made and ensure that all requirements of the label are met when the 2019 use season begins.