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What Bayer Says About Dicamba

Although overall off-target dicamba complaints decreased in 2019, record numbers occurred in Illinois.

Everyone agrees that dicamba formulations labeled for dicamba-tolerant soybeans control weeds. “Having the dicamba option really works well for farmers, as there was some pretty challenging weed-control scenarios this year,” says Ryan Rubischko, U.S. soy portfolio lead for Bayer Crop Science.

Off-target movement? Off-target dicamba complaints declined overall in 2019, says Liam Condon, Bayer Crop Science president. However, some states—such as Illinois—had high levels of dicamba damage in nondicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2019. In 2019, Illinois had 590 dicamba-related complaints as of August 23. That’s up from 2017’s 246 and 2018’s 330 dicamba-related complaints.

Condon discussed the dicamba situation this week at Bayer’s Future of Farming Dialogue held in Monheim, Germany.

“There were issues with off-target movement in the launch (in 2017),” says Condon. Since then, though, he says there have been industry efforts to ensure proper education and training occurred for those who apply dicamba.

Still, the situation in Illinois in 2019 is a puzzler. Crinkled leaves—the hallmark of dicamba damage—surfaced in central Illinois in late July and early August.

Illinois farmers who planted dicamba-tolerant soybeans following June 1 had the original dicamba cutoff date of June 30 extended until July 15. Bayer officials say a number of herbicide applications—in addition to dicamba—were compressed into that two-week gap due to the year’s weather-induced delayed planting and spraying season.

“We’re trying to better understand and are working with local teams and weed scientists and retailers in central Illinois to understand what happened,” says Rubischko.

“In a broad-based program (like dicamba), you would expect off-target inquiries to be everywhere,” Condon adds. “So, we need to look at specific agronomic conditons to evaluate what the root cause is and do whatever is possible to avoid it. This requires support from independent scientists and advice from independent scientists.”

He says this will help ensure that Bayer’s products like dicamba are used as safely as possible.

What’s Coming Up

It’s still early in the pipeline, but Bayer is developing dicamba-tolerant corn that’s slated for market debut next decade. Condon says that it’s part of Bayer’s strategy to offer farmers various weed-management options.

Currently, Bayer offers a three-way herbicide stack in cotton that confers tolerance to dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate.

Bayer plans in the early 2020s to offer Xtend Flex soybeans with tolerance to those three herbicides. It is also looking for four-way stacks in the mid-2020s, and five-way stacks by 2028.

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