By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Oct. 31 its decision to extend the registration of dicamba for two years. The extension is for “over-the-top” use — or application on growing plants — to control weeds in fields for cotton and soybean plants genetically engineered to resist dicamba.
“EPA understands that dicamba is a valuable pest control tool for America’s farmers,” Andrew Wheeler, EPA’s acting administrator, said in a statement. “By extending the registration for another two years with important new label updates that place additional restrictions on the product, we are providing certainty to all stakeholders for the upcoming growing season.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the announcement comes after “a very thorough” scientific review. “Producers who use this weed control method should review the label, understand why changes have been made, and ensure that all requirements of the label are met when the 2019 use season begins,” he said.
EPA also announced several new restrictions for using dicamba, including reducing the number of applications allowed for cotton from four to two, while making no change for dicamba’s use on soybeans. In addition, the agency said only certified applicators may apply dicamba “over the top,” noting that those working under the supervision of a certified applicator no longer are permitted to make applications.
Among other label changes for the next two growing seasons are requirements that prohibit application of dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting and on cotton 60 days after planting, with applications allowed only from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset. In counties where endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other sides of the field.
Dicamba can kill glyphosate-resistant weeds like Palmer amaranth. Although the herbicide has been in use for decades, thousands of farmers across the country have accused the latest chemical formulation of dicamba of drifting and damaging crops not genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide over the past two growing seasons. Farmers in at least 10 states became involved in lawsuits claiming various levels of loss and damage they maintain is attributable to dicamba-tolerant technology. In October 2017, EPA announced an agreement with Monsanto, BASF and DuPont for new voluntary restrictions for the herbicide’s use. Under the agreement, dicamba products were labeled “restricted use” beginning with the 2018 growing season.
With the latest announcement, the registration for all dicamba products now will expire on Dec. 20, 2020, unless EPA extends it again.