In 2017, there were approximately 89 million acres of soybeans grown in the US. About 20 million or so acres were Xtend or dicamba soybeans. In some areas of the country up to 60% of the soybean areas were planted to an Xtend variety. The exact amount of acres that actually applied either a pre or post application of dicamba is not known, however in many areas it was a rather large percentage. In Pennsylvania, there were about 580,000 acres of soybeans planted in 2017 and it is estimated that about 25 to 30% were Xtend varieties. Many commercial applicators in PA elected not to apply dicamba to Xtend soybeans this past season for various reasons, but mostly due to the liability for potential drift complaints. If dicamba was used, the majority was applied by the landowners themselves (private applicators). Expectations for the 2018 growing season are that the acres of Xtend soybeans will be around 50 million acres or more. And it is predicted that some regions will have a 75 to 80% adoption rate. However, it is not known how many of these acres will be sprayed with dicamba in order to control problem weeds such as marestail or Palmer amaranth or will some farms simply grow them as an insurance to protect from drift if their neighbor decides to spray dicamba. Either way, a good majority of the soybean acres across the US will be Xtend varieties.
It was estimated that the number of US soybean acres in 2017 that were affected by dicamba drift was about 3.6 million acres with noticeable injury. The majority of incidences occurred in the Midwest and South in states such as Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois. In Pennsylvania, there were no official dicamba drift injury complaints filed with the Department of Agriculture. However, there were some complains about 2,4-D injury on several vineyards across the state, mostly mostly due to the fact that many applicators were spraying 2,4-D in burndown programs to control marestail. Unfortunately, this spray timing coincides with grape vines breaking dormancy, when potential injury is higher at budding and new growth. As far as other major injury complaints on other crops in Pennsylvania or in the Mid-Atlantic region, we understand they were minimal.
The dicamba products labeled for Xtend soybean have a conditional 2-year label that began in 2017. Recently, EPA reaffirmed this conditional use, but amended the label with additional requirements. First and foremost, if you plan to apply dicamba to Xtend soybeans in 2018, applicators will need special training, preparation, and compliance with specific details. In 2018, the three Xtend-specific dicamba products, Engenia, Xtendimax, and FeXapan, will be classified as Restricted Use Products (or RUPs) and only those with dicamba-specific training and an earned certificate will be able to purchase and apply them. Also, since they are RUP’s, specific records must be maintained and the details about what information needs to be collected is on the herbicide label. Maximum wind speed during application has been lowered to 10 mph from 15. These products can only be applied during the daytime from sunrise to sunset. Other updates include additional information about sprayer clean-out and documenting potential nearby sensitive crops/vegetation.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Penn State Extension have discussed the new label requirements for approved dicamba products (Engenia, FeXapan, and Xtendimax) for use in dicamba-tolerant (Xtend) soybean. Although Penn State Extension will provide educational support in the use of this technology at many of the local, regional, and statewide meetings in 2018, we are relying on the product registrants (BASF, DowDupont, and Monsanto) to train all applicators within Pennsylvania to meet certification requirements and provide the necessary completion certificate. We will work with the registrants in achieving this goal and keep you informed about upcoming training opportunities.