Monsanto Asks Arkansas Court to Ban a Ban on Dicamba
Faced by hundreds of complaints of crops damaged by dicamba, the Arkansas Plant Board proposed a ban on use of the weedkiller on soybeans and cotton for most of the 2018 growing season. Seed giant Monsanto has asked a judge in Pulaski County for an injunction against the regulation while it challenges the rule in court, says the Associated Press.
A subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council is scheduled to provide final reviewof the dicamba regulation on Tuesday. The plant board proposed on September 20 to bar spraying dicamba on row crops from April 16 to October 31, 2018, to reduce the risk of damage to neighboring fields. That followed an emergency ban this past June on application of the chemical on cotton and soybeans due to rising complaints of damage.
Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, genetically engineered strains of cotton and soybeans to tolerate doses of dicamba. In requesting the injunction, the company said it “is presently losing sales each day the ban on in-crop use of dicamba herbicides remains in effect.” Growers have embraced dicamba as a potent new tool against invasive weeds that have developed resistance to other herbicides. But there are complaints that the low-volatility formulations of dicamba used in conjunction with the crops may evaporate and drift as a mist onto susceptible crops nearby.
In an “open letter” to farmers, Monsanto says it expects to double its sales of dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds for 2018 crops, enough to plant 58 million acres. Robb Fraley, the company’s chief technical officer, said in 91% of the cases it investigated, crop damage was due to improper application — errors such as wrong nozzles, incorrect spray pressure, or wrong boom height. “Recent data from BASF also indicates that illegal use of older higher-volatility dicamba formulations was likely a significant factor this season, particularly in Arkansas,” said Fraley.