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Get Set Now if You Plan to Apply Dicamba in 2018

This year’s wet spring means applicators face a tight application window.

Planning on applying dicamba to dicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2018? Here are some thoughts that Andrew Thostenson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) pesticide program specialist, has on the subject.

In 35-plus years in my professional agricultural career, I have never observed so much attention placed on a new pesticide technology. I think Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee Extension weed specialist, put it best when he remarked, “I think everyone can now safely stop comparing the Xtend technology to anything else we have previously experienced. We’ve never had a label like this to follow."

The reason is simple. When you have 3.6 million acres of off-target movement of a herbicide, that’s serious. Everyone – from weed scientists at the universities to industry to applicators – agrees that we do not want a repeat of this past year. Thus, an extraordinary training effort has been coupled with unprecedented scrutiny of every conceivable management practice, label phrase, and weather topic you can imagine.

So, let’s look at a handful of concerns and gear up for them.

Time is short

Just looking at the calendar at the time of this writing (May 3), applicators in North Dakota have about 58 days to get postapplications of the new dicamba formulations applied to soybeans (June 30 cutoff based on the label, even less if you go with the June 20 one based on NDSU’s recommendation). In Minnesota it will be less by 10 days (June 20 label cutoff). Compounding this will be the compressed nature of our application window due to the late spring. Most crops will be planted in a two- to three-week window and everything will need spraying about the same time.

We also know with respect to the new dicamba formulations, night spraying is out. In North Dakota, it means leaving another hour on the table minimum in the morning and evening to deal with inversions.

Further, experienced applicators know that finding good weather is difficult in any year, with any pesticide. The new dicamba formulations are to be applied between a minimum wind speed of 3 mph and the maximum of 10 mph.

Then there’s rain.

Hopefully we will get timely rains, but not too much to keep us out of the fields for too long. Regardless, from a practical perspective, time will be very short, especially in June, when most postapplications will be made.

New restrictions take time 

Obviously, pesticide handling/spray equipment hygiene will take much longer to comply with than more conventional products. This includes documenting a checklist that you have followed all the necessary steps before and after the application.

In North Dakota, people will need to shuttle more water into the field, 15 gallons per acre instead of last year’s 10. (Minnesota applicators will have a bit more flexibility with the Engenia label, but they would be wise to also stick with 15 gallons.)

Then there is the documentation of all the additional application recordkeeping requirements, which again is unprecedented.

Finally, there is the travel speed limitation in North Dakota – 12 mph is the maximum travel speed.

Maximize your time in the field spraying 

When everything is a go to spray, spray. Do not be doing those tasks that can be done ahead of time like:

  • Checking sensitive crops registries.
  • Consulting the manufacturer’s tankmixing and nozzle options.
  • Trying to figure out an app or a new handheld anemometer.

Plan ahead and use every precious moment you have to maximize your time spraying when conditions are right.

Prioritize your spray jobs 

Since this technology is time-intensive, consider off-loading some of your other spray work to those who may be more efficient in covering acres. In some situations, hiring an airplane might make good sense.

Be aware, though. While these people are open to opportunities, they aren’t looking to increase headaches with new customers who have unrealistic expectations or do not have payment logistics lined out. Most have clients they have been working with for years. They will have priority over new business and especially business that expects them to respond like a house is burning down.

If you have not worked with a custom applicator in a while – whether by ground or by air – it would be best to start having conversations with them sooner, rather than later.

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