The notoriously volatile weedkiller dicamba was blamed for 3,500 incidents of "off-target" damage this year, including to more than 1 million acres of soybeans, said the EPA on Tuesday. The regulator said it was reviewing whether dicamba "can be used in a manner that does not pose unreasonable risks" and said it would help states that wish to restrict use of the herbicide.
The Trump administration approved the use of the weedkiller dicamba on genetically engineered cotton and soybeans for the next five years, saying new safeguards would tame a notoriously volatile herbicide blamed for damaging millions of acres of neighboring lands. Farm groups cheered the continued access to a "critically important weed control tool" and the Center for Food Safety, a skeptic of industrial agriculture, said it "will most certainly challenge these unlawful approvals."
The herbicide dicamba is too risky to use on row crops such as soybeans and cotton until independent research shows it won't evaporate and harm nearby crops and plants, said a report from three conservation and environmental groups on Wednesday. Dicamba is blamed for "off-target" damage on millions of acres of property, and the EPA is considering possible rules for its use on crops in the future.
The victors in a lawsuit against the weedkiller dicamba asked the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn an EPA decision that would let farmers use the herbicide until July 31. "Emergency relief is required to prevent off-field drift harms that will occur on millions of acres should spraying continue," said the coalition of farm and environmental groups in an emergency petition.
Farmers and pesticide applicators can use the weedkiller dicamba until July 31, the EPA announced on Monday as it canceled its approval of the herbicide, as required by an appellate court decision announced last week. The so-called existing stocks order will allow use of the chemical on GE cotton and soybeans this crop year — the goal of farmers facing the loss of a potent weed control tool with the growing season already underway.
Farmers can no longer spray the controversial pesticide dicamba over the top of genetically modified soybeans and cotton, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. Dicamba is a weedkiller whose use has skyrocketed in recent years after agribusiness giant Monsanto introduced genetically engineered soybean and cotton seeds that resist the herbicide. The ruling means that farmers will have to immediately cease using dicamba on an estimated 60 million acres of crops across the Midwest and South. (No paywall)
In the early 2000s, Bader Farms was the largest peach farm in Missouri, with annual yields averaging about 160,000 bushels. Fifteen years later, yields had dropped by more than 90 percent. Bill Bader blames dicamba, and now he’s suing its makers for millions of dollars in damages.(No paywall)
Knowing federal regulators were paying attention to the new weedkiller's potential to contaminate other fields, Monsanto decided to “pull back” on testing to allow dicamba, according to testimony in the federal trial over the weedkiller. Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in the state, alleges that dicamba damaged their orchard.
Dicamba-tolerant corn seeds aren’t available yet. But if the seeds reach the market, and tens of millions more acres are sprayed with dicamba, there’s good reason to expect a repeat of the soybean disaster, in which the highly volatile weedkiller drifted off-target and damaged 5 million acres of conventional soybeans and an untold number of other crops.(No paywall)
The controversial weedkiller dicamba, which has wreaked havoc in soybean country over the last two years, is dividing communities and pitting neighbor against neighbor as the 2019 growing season gets underway. FERN's latest story, a radio piece produced with Reveal and the podcast Us & Them, takes listeners inside these divided communities in Arkansas.(No paywall)
Arkansas regulators voted on Wednesday to relax restrictions on the controversial weedkiller dicamba, despite testimony from top scientists and scores of concerned citizens who urged them to reject the move in a public hearing. (No paywall)
A federal appeals court on the West Coast dismissed as moot a lawsuit by environmentalists to overturn the EPA's 2016 approval of the weedkiller dicamba. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the environmental groups could try again with a challenge to EPA's reapproval of the herbicide last November. (No paywall)
University weed scientists estimate at least 1.2 percent of U.S. soybean plantings have been damaged accidentally by the weedkiller dicamba despite stricter limits on its use this year, said a University of Missouri report. Damage was highest in Illinois, the No. 1 soybean-growing state, where 500,000 acres of the U.S. total of 1.1 million damaged acres are located. Arkansas was second with 300,000 damaged acres.
The world's largest seed and ag-chemical company, Monsanto, says it is considering its options after a court dismissed its lawsuit challenging the Arkansas ban of its weedkiller dicamba on row crops during the growing season, said the Associated Press. "Arkansas has the toughest restriction in place on dicamba, though several states have imposed other restrictions or requirements."
State agriculture commissioner Doug Goehring announced “North Dakota-specific” rules on use of the weedkiller dicamba on GE soybeans in the new crop year. They include a ban on spraying when temperatures top 85 degrees and a total cutoff of dicamba use after June 30.
At the University of Nebraska, researchers are experimenting with the agricultural landscape to see if modifications such as windbreaks or cover crops will limit pesticide drift and help bees avoid harmful exposure to the chemicals. Farmers generally plant corn and soybean seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, which can be rubbed off of the seed during planting and land on plants visited by foraging bees, says Harvest Public Media.
A Monsanto executive "acknowledged the company misjudged the timeline" for EPA approval of its lower-volatility formulation of the weedkiller dicamba in 2016, reports Reuters. The result was that some farmers, worried about invasive weeds, planted Monsanto's new dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds and used older versions of dicamba, blamed for damage to neighboring fields.
Following an explosion of complaints about crop damage by the weedkiller dicamba, the EPA strengthened its rules for spraying the herbicide onto genetically modified cotton and soybeans. The new guidelines require special training of applicators before they can spray dicamba, limit the time of day when it can be used and bar spraying when winds exceed 10 miles an hour, a reduction from the 15 mph limit this year.
State officials in Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee have received hundreds of complaints blaming the weedkiller dicamba for damage to oak trees this summer, says the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting (MCIR). Usage of dicamba — and complaints of crop damage — has increased with the release of soybean and cotton varieties genetically modified to tolerate doses of the chemical.