Sustainable Weed Management: Cooperation, Preparation, Science Are Key – Commentary

Poorly controlled pigweed following dicamba applications. Photo: University of Tennessee

Stewarding agriculture is a passion that we all have in common and are working every day to achieve. As the world’s population is expected to approach 10 billion people by 2050, family farms are faced with feeding and clothing them all. To meet this demand, science confirms growers must have access to economically effective pesticides.

However, it is equally important that all pesticides are used carefully and strategically in ways that protect consumers, applicators, growers and their neighbors, and our environment.

Georgia’s agricultural family including Extension, farmers, consultants, retailers/dealers, industry, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture have taken to heart the importance of stewarding pesticides. In regards to mitigating off-target pesticide movement, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has observed a 75% reduction in drift complaints over the past five years.

For implementing sound management programs, again farmers did much better overall this year

  • starting clean,
  • applying two active ingredients effective on Palmer amaranth at planting (research is showing these at-plant applications control about 98% of the pigweed for the entire year),
  • making timely topical applications and understanding the time between sequential applications is critical,
  • hopefully finishing the weed control program off with a layby or hooded application (I hear you, “I don’t have time for this application”…..well, do you have more time to pull up all the pigweed that will be resistant to dicamba, Liberty, and/or your other herbicides?).

Many growers are rightfully concerned about in-crop labeled solo dicamba products in regards to recent court decisions and the reregistration of these products moving into 2021. In the short-term, make sure to use these herbicides wisely through July 31, 2020; always follow the label.

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Using these products after that date would be extremely dangerous; if you drift a non-registered pesticide on my crop how do you think you will do if I take you to court… use common sense! In regards to reregistration, the U.S. EPA is receiving data needed to make this decision including

  • data from registrants,
  • incidence report data,
  • land grant and Weed Science Society data, and
  • additional published data.

The results of this data will likely be critical in their decision making process which will hopefully occur no later than the end of October!

I may be one of few, but I am optimistic when it comes to the future use of these topically applied in-crop dicamba products. So far, Georgia has stewarded these products wisely by keeping them on target and utilizing sound integrated weed management programs.

Of course, you must already know that it is more important than ever for your 2020 dicamba applications to stay on target or my optimism for a 2021 label is no more!  With that said changes are needed, we need labels that are easier to understand and provide better recommendations for our area.

I am hopeful that our industry and regulatory partners will work together creating new regionalized labels helping us keep products on target while delaying further resistance in Palmer amaranth (oh, it’s coming and the decisions you make each day determines when it will get you!).

Cooperation, preparation, sound science, and making wise decisions when applying all pesticides are the reasons we have been able to use dicamba in our 2020 cotton crop; these factors will be even more critical if we are to have these and other tools for 2021!




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