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Dicamba faces court case, added state label restrictions for 2020

A peach grower is suing dicamba manufacturers in U.S. District Court for damage from off-target dicamba.

Dicamba in 2020 is facing the challenges of a legal trial and increased application restrictions in some states.

A jury trial is slated to start Monday in United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern division, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Bader Farms v. Monsanto was the first-filed dicamba-crop damage case. The plaintiffs claim that dicamba damaged their peach orchard.

In response, Bayer (which bought Monsanto in 2018) issued this statement before Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr., issued a gag order for both sides: This lawsuit attempts to shift responsibility to Monsanto Company and BASF and away from what is really causing Bader Farm’s alleged damages. As multiple experts have confirmed and as Bader Farms admits, its peach orchards are suffering from a pervasive soil fungus that kills peach trees. This soil fungus is responsible for destroying much of Missouri’s historic commercial peach production and it has unfortunately arrived on Bader Farms. Monsanto and its products are not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit; rather, those losses are due to this unrelated fungus and other natural causes.
In 2015 and 2016, Monsanto’s XtendFlex cotton and Xtend soybeans, respectively, were approved for sale by the United State Department of Agriculture. Its XtendiMax herbicide was extensively tested and approved by the EPA for use with Xtend crops starting in 2017. Monsanto’s Xtend seed and low volatility XtendiMax herbicide represent break-through technological advances that were sorely needed by growers to produce high-yielding crops and to combat tough-to-control weeds. Upon EPA approval of the XtendiMax herbicide, Monsanto trained more than 50,000 growers, applicators, licensees and others on proper label application.  
Monsanto also took many steps to warn growers, dealers and applicators that dicamba herbicides were not approved for in-crop use during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and that such use would violate state and federal laws and was not authorized by Monsanto. Monsanto included a prominent warning with all bags of Xtend seed sold and provided extensive training with all our teams that the use of a dicamba herbicide over Xtend cotton and soybean seeds was not permitted and would be illegal. 
We look forward to presenting the facts of this case to the jury. There is no merit to the plaintiff’s claims.

Regulatory Challenges

Dicamba formulations that are applied to dicamba-tolerant soybeans are also facing increased regulation in states like Indiana. Last year’s soggy spring caused many Indiana farmers to mix or delay preemergence residual chemistry. This led to increased dependency on postemergence chemistry, including dicamba on dicamba-tolerant soybeans. Dicamba formulations labeled for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans include:
• XtendiMax With VaporGrip Technology (Bayer Crop Science) 
• Engenia (BASF) 
• FeXapan Herbicide Plus VaporGrip Technology (Corteva Agriscience)
• Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology (Syngenta) 

“A side effect of this were the off-target dicamba complaints,” says Bill Johnson, Purdue University Extension weed specialist. “It was flying all over the place. So, we are making adjustments from a regulatory standpoint as well.”

Indiana-specific restrictions for dicamba use on soybeans in 2020 include a June 20 application cutoff date, says Dave Scott, pesticide administrator of the Office of Indiana State Chemist (OISC). 

Off-target dicamba complaints have been fewer in states that have enacted a June 20 cutoff date. For example, Minnesota – which had a June 20 cutoff date in place in 2019 – had 22 off-target dicamba complaints in 2019. Meanwhile, Indiana had 178 complaints with no state cutoff date in 2019, according to data compiled by the OISC. 

Bayer officials have opposed state cutoff dates, saying the federal label is sufficient. The federal label prohibits over-the-top application of dicamba formulations designed for dicamba-tolerant soybeans 45 days after planting or after the R1 stage (beginning bloom), whichever comes first.

“Where planting was delayed, rather than a date on a calendar, following the federal label can enable growers to utilize these technologies to control weeds,” says Ryan Rubischko, soybean product lead for Bayer Crop Science. 

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