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Minnesota seeks tighter controls on dicamba use on soybeans after big increase in drift complaints

The changes would set deadlines for herbicide application and restrict spraying based on weather conditions. There were 304 complaints about dicamba drift in Minnesota in 2021, up from 128 reports in 2020.

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Dorian Gatchell, owner of Minnesota Agricultural Services LLC, sees off-target dicamba herbicide drift on a soybean field near Granite Falls, Minnesota, on Aug. 25, 2021 — a recurring issue that becomes more “annoying” as time goes by. Photo taken Aug. 25, 2021, near Granite Falls, Minnesota. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — With complaints about dicamba drift more than doubling in 2021, Minnesota is seeking stricter controls on the use of the herbicide by the state's soybean farmers.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Thursday, Dec. 9, announced that the new restrictions for 2022 would include:

Cutoff dates: No applications can be made south of Interstate 94 after June 12; north of I-94, no spraying after June 30, 2022.

Temperature restrictions: No spraying if the air temperature of the field is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. or if the National Weather Service’s forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day exceeds 85 degrees.

The herbicides eligible for use are Engenia by BASF, FeXapan by Corteva, Tavium by Syngenta, and XtendiMax by Bayer. These are the only dicamba products labeled for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans, according to the Minnesota Department of Ag.

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In addition to the cutoff dates, Xtendimax and Tavium have crop growth stage cutoffs.

The state-specific restrictions would need to be approved by the federal EPA and would appear on the federal label for each product. Minnesota also will also require product makers provide approved education and training of applicators.

Other federal requirements for the products that will appear on the 2022 labels include:

  • Requiring an approved pH-buffering agent, also known as a volatility reducing agent, be tank mixed with dicamba products before all applications.
  • Requiring a downwind buffer of 240 feet and 310 feet in areas where listed endangered species are located.
  • Additional recordkeeping.

There were 304 complaints about dicamba drift in Minnesota in 2021, up from 128 reports in 2020. There were 249 complaints in 2017, then complaints fell to 51 in 2018 and 20 in 2019.
From 2018 to 2020, Minnesota had set a June 20 cutoff date for spraying dicamba. The EPA enacted a federal cutoff date of June 30 in 2021 and did not allow states to impose additional restrictions.

Minnesota also set a temperature cutoff for the 2018 growing season.

Since dicamba was first registered for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans in the 2017 growing season, the herbicide drifting onto neighboring property has been an issue.

“We understand that dicamba is an important tool in combating herbicide resistant weeds in dicamba-tolerant soybeans,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said in a press release. “However, these products must be used without impacts on neighboring homes, farms, and gardens. The additional restrictions are based on scientific evidence from our drift investigations and discussions with the University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Soybean Growers Drift Taskforce.”

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