Cooperation, Preparation Are Keys to Ag Sustainability
By Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension Weed Specialist
Stewarding agriculture is a passion that we all have in common. Preparing for the launch of two “new” auxin herbicide active ingredients for in-season cotton and soybean use has consumed much of our time during the past few years. The ability of industry to develop the new auxin technologies is amazing, but the cooperation and preparation across educational and regulatory boundaries in preparing for the launch of these tools has been even more fascinating.
Cooperation from University of Georgia Extension, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) and local industry representatives in developing the Using Pesticides Wisely training program was the first of its kind for large-scale agriculture. This training brought the latest research on methods to improve on-target pesticide applications to nearly 3,000 people across the state. Extension agents, GDA, and local industry partners committed untold hours in organizing and conducting the 35 classroom trainings. The time commitment, cooperation, and support from growers attending these trainings was also evident with 99+% of those filling out surveys suggesting the training was worth their time, and 98% of them noting the training would help them improve on-target pesticide applications.
Also over the past three years, county extension agents have held nearly 120 Extension weed management meetings in their counties to help growers understand the pros and cons of auxin weed management programs. The amazing effort by the agents was made possible only through local community support.
Currently, Extension agents are conducting one-on-one trainings where they visit with growers/applicators, focusing specifically on helping applicators make wise decisions when using all pesticides. This effort is designed to help growers protect endangered species, protect pollinators, reduce the potential for further herbicide resistance development, and make their farm more sustainable. This monumental 3-year approach by Extension is very challenging, but the commitment of each agent to their growers is equaled by few. During the first few months of the 3-year project, over 275 individuals have been trained.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is currently traveling the state helping dealerships/retailers understand specifically which dicamba and 2,4-D products are legal for in-season cotton or soybean weed management. This effort is essential in making sure retailers are not selling – and growers are not using – highly volatile formulations of dicamba or 2,4-D.
Also, currently the Acting Director of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs is cooperating with UGA Extension in conducting webinar trainings for retailers across the nation. This effort is a means to make sure retailers are comfortable with new herbicide labels, while providing them the science behind new label changes. The EPA is also making widely available pamphlets and brochures to further assist in making sure everyone has access to the latest information regarding the new auxin herbicide labels.
Certainly, no one can predict what will happen with the new auxin technologies in Georgia during 2017. Regardless, one thing is for sure – the cooperation and collective effort from all facets of agriculture to foster pesticide stewardship on such a large scale has never been equaled!