By Allie Arp, ISA research communications speciliast
There is a lot of information and opinions being circulated surrounding the Dicamba issue. I sat down with Ed Anderson, the Iowa Soybean Association’s openly candid senior director of research to get an unbiased look at what’s really happening.
In your own words, can you describe the Dicamba situation as it currently stands?
It depends who you talk to. There are farmers who are having great success with the use and the effectiveness of the dicamba system. Then there are others who have expressed everything from moderate concern to major frustration. Farmers and we as an organization have been working to have and to promote calm, professional conversations with neighbors, technology providers, applicators and everyone involved. At this point we need to continue to work together and maintain a dialogue because there are so many things we don’t know and won’t know until we do more careful analysis of the use and management of this chemistry in the new transgenic system.
Why is the chemistry and the transgenic system publicly available if it needs more data and research?
The technology companies seem to have presented the most valid and complete dataset they could, the EPA determined that the information was adequate and approved the use of the system’s technology. Like anything there’s always opportunities to collect more data. Experimental data and field observations on efficacy, primary and secondary drift, and off-target symptoms should be analyzed. The next big dataset is going to be yields this year from target and non-target soybean fields. Did the technology impact yield positively or negatively and are the results statistically significant? ISA is working with Iowa State University, technology providers, farmer cooperatives and applicators to learn as much as we can this year and hopefully apply what we learn to farmer decisions for next year.
With any new technology there are going to be pros and cons, benefits and risks. If we continue to conduct research, collect, analyze, interpret and discuss data we should be in a credible position to help users optimize and manage the Dicamba system. If it turns out that we need to further modify the label on things like timing of application, environmental conditions or buffer size for safer application, we can help regulators take the steps to do so. That is the purpose of continued evaluation.
What led us to this point?
We don’t know where ‘this point’ is yet. It’s a great place for some. It’s a not so great place for others. So in cases where we’re in a great place, everything came together as it should. The applicator was following the label to the letter, mother nature cooperated and all the right environmental conditions were working in their favor. The people in the bad place may have had bad things happen as a result of less than strict adherence to label, honest mistakes in the use of this chemistry and the biotech system, and mother nature potentially working against them. It’s a complex system several factors might contribute to use challenges, including the facts that this chemistry is effective at very low doses, has not previously been utilized for over-the-top applications on biotech crops, and the tricky drift and volatilization condition risks.
What do you believe needs to happen next?
We need to collect data from this season and partner in the development of small plot experiments and on-farm trials for next season. We have one anecdotal data set of farmers observing fields in their neighborhoods, some follow up by applicators and tech providers regarding timing and severity of off-target symptoms but very few yield results to draw correlations. After that yield data is collected we will know better if there is anything meaningful in this year’s data set and how we might partner with companies and universities for next season.
Farmers need new technologies to combat weeds. Herbicide resistant weeds are constantly being selected so we need evolving technology to provide tools to combat evolving weed populations. Ultimately, we champion integrated solutions and going where the data takes us. If we do the right research, get the right data and analyze it correctly, we’ll know the future of Dicamba. The bottom line is farmers need these technologies and tools; it benefits all of us to work together to truly see if the dicamba system is going to work, not going to work or how we can modify it to make it work.