Dicamba – In 2019, Will Enough Qualified Applicators Be In The Field To Meet New Regs?

Rogator. Photo: Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Rogator. Photo: Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

On October 31, 2018, EPA extended the registration for using dicamba herbicides on Xtend crops for two years, a move welcomed by farmers whose options for control of resistant weeds have been slowly dwindling.

But one new requirement could be troublesome when weeds emerge this season. The new labels for key dicamba products – XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia – requires that only certified applicators can legally make over the top applications of dicamba on Xtend crops.

No longer will those supervised by a certified applicator be allowed to make applications.

This has raised concerns about whether be enough certified applicators will be available to make timely sprays in 2019. Answers differ from state to state. Here’s how it’s stacking up in 5 of those states:

Tennessee – Already There

Tennessee farmers planting Xtend crops were already operating under a 2018 state rule that limited dicamba sprays to certified applicators, according to the state’s Extension weed scientist Larry Steckel.

“So, it’s not a change for us,” Steckel noted. “But in some states where there are a lot of custom applications, this could be a problem.”

However, more Tennessee farmers went through certification training before 2018 because of the state’s rule. “It wasn’t a few, but it wasn’t a lot, either,” Steckel said.

Tennessee has over 6,000 certified private applicators, with most of them farmers, according to Steckel. “We’ve been spraying restricted-use pesticides for a while, whether it’s Gramoxone, atrazine or others.”

Illinois – Ramping Up The Training Effort

According to Aaron Hager, University of Illinois weed scientists, licensed operators working under the direct supervision of a licensed applicator have made the majority of pesticide applications in Illinois.

“The new rules have done away with that,” Hager said. “Now, every person making the application must be licensed as a certified applicator. In Illinois, about 4,000 people are now going to have to pass that exam, it’s been estimated.”

Optional training courses in preparation of the closed book exam are located around the state and more sites have been added to accommodate an expected increase in applicants.

“A lot of people have already taken the exam, including 400 in Champaign-Urbana last week,” Hager said. “Training is taking place in Jacksonville for another 400.”

Here’s what to know on training and licensing in Illinois.

Mississippi – Already A Busy Training Schedule

“I think you’re going to have a glut of people trying to take the private applicator test in the next three months,” said Jason Bond, weed scientist at Mississippi State University. Otherwise, “there could be a shortage of people who can legally apply it.”

Training required for certification could be complicated by the frantic schedules farmers are facing this spring, according to Bond. In areas where weather limited fieldwork last fall, people could be in a tight spot.

 In Mississippi, training is available in county offices. Mississippi State University Extension Service, in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Bureau of Plant Industry, has developed two new online training courses related to herbicides labeled for use with dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans.

One course covers the label requirements for applicator training. Another delves into training at the point of sale (POS).

Bond said that he’s seen a lot of “buy-in” with the POS training course and that “people have been very complimentary of the quality of the training.”  

Indiana – Aggressive Efforts

“A few more people need to be certified this year, so we opened up another training session to get them ready for the exam,” said William Johnson, weed scientist at Purdue University. “Our pesticide program here has been pretty aggressive in getting our farmer applicators certified over time. There’s a strong county presence in place to help them maintain their licenses.”

Training session typically accommodate 60 to 70 participants, according to Johnson.

Louisiana – No Anticipated Shortage

In 2018, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) required all individuals who sell, buy and apply dicamba and 2,4-D formulations labeled for Xtend and Enlist crops to be certified through a training session every year, according to LSU AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson.

“The LDAF hasn’t announced if they will add anymore requirements for 2019 yet,” he added. “So, Louisiana chemical dealers and farmers are used to the certification requirement. Therefore, I don’t see a shortage of application capacity.”

Stephenson estimates an equal mix of private and custom applicators across the state, with the ratio shifting based on regional differences.

Across All States

Besides training required for certification as a commercial or private applicator, all applicators must complete dicamba or auxin-specific training. This additional training is required for the 2019 growing season and each growing season thereafter.

Applicator training updates by state.