Culpepper: The Georgia Cotton Farmer, Dicamba, and the Future of Pesticides

Over 90% of Georgia’s cotton farmers value the ability of using dicamba postemergence in their cotton crop with the belief that weed control, primarily for pigweed, is improved. The future of this technology is, of course, unknown as both the courts and our regulatory partners will influence its fate moving forward. In fact, the potential for the courts and those regulatory agencies to influence the practical use of all of the nearly 1200 registered pesticide active ingredients has gained national attention over the last year mostly in response to the challenges posed by the Endangered Species Act.

Although our science documents that the availability of economically effective pesticides are essential for farm sustainability and for the ability of our farms to provide safe, affordable, and accessible food, feed, and fiber for the world, that simply does not guarantee their preservation. In fact, the responsibility of all farmers and their applicators is to steward each and every pesticide, making certain these products are applied on-target and stay there. Working together for improved pesticide stewardship provides the opportunity to preserve the practical use of our herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and fumigants as well as to improve the safety for the applicator, their family, neighbors, consumers, and our environment.

Since 2014, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has documented more than an 80% reduction in pesticide drift complaints across the state, even during the adoption of auxin tolerant cotton and soybean technologies. Although this is an accomplishment to celebrate, there continues to be a few poor decisions, especially with auxin herbicides, that must be eliminated.

To further improve Georgia agriculture’s commitment to pesticide stewardship and to help farmers learn more about the regulatory complexities facing them through the Endangered Species Act, applicators of in-crop dicamba formulations (Engenia, XtendiMax, Tavium) are required to attend the 2023 in-person Using Pesticide Wisely Training held by the University of Georgia and Georgia Department of Agriculture during March and April across the state.

The focus of this training is to ensure growers and pesticide applicators understand how vulnerable agriculture is in losing the ability of using these tools in a practical manner and what they can do to help resolve this mighty challenge.

Decisions made with 2023 dicamba applications will likely influence the future of this technology, assuming the courts do not remove the herbicides prior to the season. Make wise application decisions, and refer to the label for recommendations and restrictions. A few reminders when applying Engenia, XtendiMax, or Tavium during 2023:

  1. Get the spray droplet size correct (proper spray tip, spray pressure); make sure tips are not worn out.
  2. Boom height should be no more than 24 inches above the target.
  3. Slow down the sprayer speed in sensitive areas.
  4. Apply these products only between winds of 3-10 mph.
  5. Avoid applications during inversions, do not apply until 1 hr after sunrise and stop 2 hr before sunset.
  6. Include a drift reduction adjuvant when advised by the product label.
  7. Be aware ofin-field buffersand application cut-off dates (July 30 cotton; June 30 soybean).
  8. Only include approved tank mix partners; DO NOT mix AMS with any dicamba formulation.
  9. The only formulations approved for use in-crop are:ENGENIA, XTENDIMAX, OR TAVIUM.
  10. Always include a VRA(Volatility Reduction Adjuvant).
  11. Do not apply if sensitive areas, crops, or residential areas are adjacent downwind.

Stanley Culpepper
UGA Weed Scientist