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Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

From Cotton Grower Magazine – August/September 2016

Beck Barnes

I went home this summer to attend a Dow AgroSciences field day in the Mississippi Delta.

After the event, I stopped in at my favorite lunch spot and got to hang out with some old friends over a sandwich and a cold Coke. Someone asked where I had been that day, and I mentioned that I had been at a Dow event learning up on the new Enlist technology.

“Oh, I think I had some of that Enlist technology show up over at my place this week,” said one farmer at the table. “It was either that or the dicamba one.”

I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t the first time this season that I’d heard a cotton producer grumble about a neighbor going off label and spraying a herbicide product that is currently not registered for use in cotton.

The problem, of course, is that growers who are willing to make an illegal application almost assuredly aren’t following label instructions with respect to things like wind speed, boom height and applicator speed. To compound matters, many are using older formulations of herbicide – formulations that don’t feature the new age chemistry created by Monsanto and Dow that helps keep their respective herbicides on target.

Without fail, the victims in these situations don’t want to make a fuss about it. No reason to spoil a friendly relationship over an accident, they seem to think. But since my neighbors here in Midtown Memphis haven’t planted any crops this year, allow me to get this off my chest: making illegal sprays of dicamba and 2,4-D in 2016 is profoundly selfish and dumb.

The risk-to-reward ratio here just doesn’t justify this activity. At best, a grower making these applications gets moderately better weed control in one crop. At worst, he spurs the call to EPA that breaks the camel’s back, effectively robbing thousands of his fellow farmers of access to a game-changing, fortune-saving technology.

Make no mistake, the state and federal agencies who field these complaints have noticed the uptick in activity this year. Particularly in the Mid-South, with its traditionally diverse cropping landscape, state pesticide control departments have been flooded with calls.

It’s a shame, truly. So many farmers, researchers, consultants and agronomists have waited anxiously for years, anticipating these new tools in the fight against weed resistance. The introduction of dicamba- and 2,4-D-tolerant traits would mean less resistance pressure on existing glyphosate and glufosinate technologies. Literally everyone stands to benefit from the new technologies gaining federal approval. Now, in a vulnerable moment in the registration process, a few irresponsible farmers are threatening to jeopardize it all.

Here’s hoping USDA understands what is plain to see – that the illegal applications that have happened this season are vastly different from the safe, meticulously researched and vigorously tested systems designed by Monsanto and Dow. If not, well, we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

Editor’s Note: Two separate Mid-South state plant boards have confirmed to Cotton Grower that they have received no complaints regarding off-target drift of 2,4-D herbicides to date in 2016. Further, representatives of Dow AgroSciences say they have not received any complaints regarding off-label use of 2,4-D on Enlist crops in 2016. Cotton Grower’s editorial position on this issue remains unchanged: off-label sprays of any herbicide in 2016 are entirely irresponsible and damaging to the American cotton industry as a whole.

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