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Monsanto's Fraley Addresses the Climate Around Dicamba

Monsanto commits to greater dialogue, collaboration on dicamba technology in 2018 and beyond.

Robb Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer, sent Successful Farming this Op-Ed to address the climate surrounding dicamba. Below, Fraley explains the expectations for the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System and steps Monsanto is taking to keep this technology viable for farmers in the 2018 growing season and beyond.

We are entering a new era of modern agriculture. Farmers are using increasingly sophisticated digital tools, planting better-than-ever seed varieties, and controlling pests with a more diverse set of crop protection products. At this pivotal moment in agriculture, innovation, collaboration, and dialogue are more important than ever.

As we head into the 2018 growing season, dicamba seems to be top of mind for many across the U.S. agriculture community. That’s not a surprise given that the 2017 season was the debut of our full Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System, which features our low-volatility dicamba product called XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology. The Xtend Crop System represents one of the most significant technology launches in Monsanto’s history. In just its second year in the market, U.S. farmers are on track to plant nearly 50 million acres of dicamba-tolerant soy and cotton in 2018, more than doubling last year’s figures. And for 2019, we expect this number to grow to at least 60 million acres. Farmers clearly see the value in this breakthrough weed control technology.

Most of our customers experienced great success with the Xtend Crop System last year. In fact, more than 97% reported excellent weed control with XtendiMax. However, sensational headlines in the mainstream media sometimes told a different story, focusing on reports of potential off-target dicamba movement without full context or thorough explanation. Left out of many of these stories were the facts about multiple issues – including misapplication, use of older generic formulations, sprayer contamination, and other factors – that contributed to off-target movement.

Like many others, we took the inquiries we received from our customers seriously and reviewed the facts thoroughly. We learned through conversations with growers and applicators that enhanced applicator training and record keeping can address the main causes of off-target movement seen last year. During the fall, we worked collaboratively with the EPA to enhance the XtendiMax label and make applicator training and record keeping mandatory. To date, we’ve conducted hundreds of training sessions with over 25,000 farmers and customers.

We also recently launched our new RRXtend Spray App, a free, digital tool to help growers and applicators successfully apply XtendiMax. The app is a grower- and applicator-focused digital tool that provides location-specific weather forecasts, digital record keeping capabilities and educational resources related to the Xtend Crop System. Growers can download the app for free on the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Based on these changes, we can all be confident that 2018 will be an even more successful season for all.

Over the past several months, I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to our customers, academic partners, and other stakeholders. Folks have been candid with me about what worked well last season – and what didn’t. I appreciate the candor our customers, academic partners, and others have shown. The two things I’ve heard repeatedly are that 1) we need to ensure additional opportunities for dialogue and discussion this year, and 2) that farmers really need this new technology to combat weeds.

We have taken this feedback from the agriculture community to heart, and we will make a concerted effort in 2018 to provide more updates and seek more input from stakeholders throughout the season. We know we don’t have all the answers. We know we can’t move modern agriculture forward alone. It’s key that we work together as an agricultural community to steward and use new technologies effectively.

So here are a few examples of information we will be sharing in the coming months:

  • Results from a large dicamba field trial conducted recently in Australia with academic partners demonstrating how VaporGrip technology effectively manages volatility, even under extreme environmental conditions.
  • Results from dicamba field trials planned for the United States during this growing season in collaboration with major research universities.
  • In-season learnings from investigations of any off-target movement reports we receive via our reporting hotline, 1-844-RRXtend, along with insights from in-field follow up.
  • Customer feedback on weed control performance and other relevant topics.

We will share these updates with media, on social media, and directly with stakeholders in the agriculture community throughout the season. I invite anyone interested to follow me @RobbFraley and follow Monsanto @RRPLUS. We will also post information regularly on RoundupReadyXtend.com and Monsanto.com/dicamba.

I joined Monsanto in 1981, and during my career, I’ve watched many novel ideas grow into useful products that help farmers solve problems. From the time we first licensed the dicamba resistance gene from the University of Nebraska in 2005, it took 12 years of intensive research to develop the Xtend trait and XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology. Now, the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System serves as a vital tool for weed control.

Let’s all work together to ensure farmers can successfully use this game-changing technology in 2018 and beyond. You have my commitment that we’ll do our part.

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