Producers could be without 3 primary over-the-top dicamba products in 2021 if a critical court ruling holds. Essentially, the decision banned dicamba, which strips away the main feature in dicamba-resistant technology – dicamba itself.
Connect to more Info on the Dicamba decision at the end of this article.
Even before the 2020 crop wrapped up, many farmers and their crop advisors already were considering their Plan B – a weed management approach for 2021 that omits dicamba altogether.
So, what will go into these Plan B’s?
We posed that question to 12 consultants in 10 states across the Midwest, Midsouth, Southeast and Southwest.
How will they and their clients formulate an approach in a year without the herbicide?
Here’s what they told us:
Harold Lambert, Lambert Agricultural Consulting, Ventress, Louisiana
“Dicamba technology is going to be valuable to us if it is available It’s a great tool, and we need that tool for managing resistant Palmer amaranth and other weeds. If we lose it, we’re going to lose some of what we’ve gained in just the last year or two in staying ahead of Palmer pigweed.
“Some Xtend cotton varieties will be planted anyway, primarily because producers can still use glyphosate and glufosinate to control weeds. But not so much with soybeans. And that’s the hitch.
“If dicamba post products are not available in 2021, producers need to ‘double down’ with herbicide applications between corn harvest and November. That’s when we grow a whole other crop of weeds. We have to start spending more time and money preventing this weed nursery, and not just to control pigweed.”
Dennis Berglund, Centrol Inc., Twin Valley, Minnesota
“We’re running out of tools with the potential loss of in-season dicamba applications. Resistant weeds are getting to be a struggle, and it’s growing harder and harder to have a clean field.
“Resistant waterhemp has become widespread over the last 5 years. Common ragweed and kochia are problems, too, and kochia seems to acquire resistance very quickly.
“If producers can’t spray dicamba in-season in 2021, Enlist soybean varieties are an option, although we don’t have as many of those varieties up here.
“Some of our producers say the LibertyLink soybeans did really well this year, but others believe it struggled a little. I think it all came down to weather conditions at the time of application.”
Brandon Phillips, Phillips Ag Services, LLC, Fitzgerald, Georgia
“If we don’t have a label for dicamba, we will be forced to go back to where we were in 2005, or so when we first found glyphosate-resistant pigweed. We will have to use residual herbicides and burn the stew out of our cotton. Beyond that, we won’t be able to pull pigweeds because the crews to do that can’t get into the country.
“We can keep our cotton clean without dicamba, but we have to make more herbicide applications, and the weed management costs limit our opportunity for profit. Another issue is that we have high-yielding varieties traited for over-the-top application of dicamba.
“Our Georgia cotton farmers certainly need a label for dicamba. We have a lot of time between now and May. I have confidence that we can get this issue resolved in a way that works for cotton farmers and their neighbors.
“My hope is that dicamba will be registered for use in 2021. If the decision is made at the state level, then we will have a label here. Our farmers have shown that they can use dicamba responsibly. Most of our fields are surrounded by trees, and we are in a good position to properly apply the herbicide. We’re being penalized for somebody else’s mishandling of dicamba. We’re doing a good job.”
Mark Nemec, MJN Consulting, Waco, Texas
“Without the availability of most dicamba-based technology, many growers will look at a Liberty program next year, along with Tavium. They’ll also use more soil-applied preemerge herbicides to prevent resistant waterhemp from coming up.
“Guys may also turn to old layby programs with hooded sprayers, which are likely stored behind the barn or shed. Tried-and-true herbicides like Caporal, Diuron, or Cotoran would be applied underneath cotton and not over the top. Several of my guys still apply Cotoran as a preemerge. Growers also will likely need to run cultivators to handle weeds in certain fields.
“Residuals will likely be in the mix, but you need rain or irrigation to activate them, and we often don’t get rain at the right time. When that happens, you throw your money away. Liberty should work well because it responds best to humidity. Roundup still works on many weeds – but not waterhemp, plus it’s weak on morningglory.
“About half of my guys switched to the Enlist system for 2020. Even they’re concerned that the courts may again try to remove the 2,4-D system. Growers need these technologies to control resistant weeds. The EPA needs to straighten out all of this.
“Until that happens, we may have to learn to farm without over-the-top herbicides. It’s time to dig through old filing cabinets and study old-style tank mixes used in the past.”
Orvin Bontrager, ServiTech, Inc., Aurora, Nebraska
“Obviously, we’re going to have to go to more Enlist soybeans, provided we can buy the varieties that we want. Here in central Nebraska, we’re limited on what (variety) numbers we can get.
“For some fields, loss of dicamba won’t make much difference. I have almost 1,000 acres of Roundup Ready soybeans. We load up with 3 different residuals at 3 different times, and we do a pretty good job with that. If you don’t have a bad weed problem to begin with and you use residuals, you can keep weeds down.
“Other fields will be more of a challenge. I have seed corn on rotated fields with a lot more weed pressure. It’s tough to deal with them without some post-emerge activity in addition to residuals.
“LibertyLink soybeans could also be an option, but that’s been hit or miss, depending on the weather. If you get a cool week, the herbicide doesn’t work as well. If it’s a hot and humid week, the results are good.
“My farmers will probably plant Xtend soybeans on fields that don’t have a big weed problem. But we have to make sure we put enough residuals out there. With irrigation, we can keep the residuals activated. That helps a lot versus dryland where you need some rain on them.
“Resistant Palmer pigweed and waterhemp are our biggest worries. Palmer pigweed is going to drive me over the edge before long. It’s a toughie. If you have any misses, you know it. They’ll be poking above the soybeans and growing.
“Farmers in this area have gotten used to seeing cupped soybeans from (off-target) movement of dicamba, so I’m not too worried about that. We have irrigation, so we can put the water on those beans so they’ll grow out of any effect from the dicamba. They will still yield well.”
David Hydrick, Hydrick’s Crop Consulting, Inc., Jonesboro, Arkansas
“If we lose dicamba, we’re in a mess, particularly the cropland along the I-55 corridor of Arkansas. Around Jonesboro, we can make some conventional corn and soybeans work. We still have problems with pigweed, but we can handle them with Liberty or other herbicides, and what’s left, we just chop out. It’s not a huge issue.
“Without dicamba in a postemergence program, the first thing we want to do is control weeds this year after harvest so they won’t go to seed.
“Resistant Italian ryegrass also will be part of our focus with post-harvest applications. We’re going to run a Group 15 this fall on all the acres with ryegrass. We’re hoping that will help with pigweeds, too, because Group 15 herbicides are still effective for us. However, I think that’s going to be short-lived.
“Cover crops will be part of the program, too. As much as I hate them, cover crops definitely help. Most of my producers will plant cereal rye on acreage where weed infestations are heaviest.
“Residuals will continue to be important. We go in with a good preemergence at burndown, then put out another good preemergence at planting. Most of the time, we do a two- or three-way mix of preemergence herbicides – a Group 15 with a Group 14 and metribuzin (Group 5).
“We’ll overlay them 14 to 21 days later. You can make a crop with timely rains and timely-applied preemergence herbicides. You won’t be completely clean, but you can make a crop for sure.”
Jason Gomes, North Iowa Agronomy Partners, LLC, Janesville, Iowa
“We’re probably going to look at Enlist soybeans and LibertyLink soybeans. In a lot of cases, we also can improve weed control if we use a cereal rye cover crop. Beyond that, it’s the usual things – putting a residual herbicide down preplant or preemergence and also putting one down with the postemergence pass. Narrow-row soybeans could also make a difference, too.
“Also, a number of LibertyLink varieties compare well with Xtend varieties. But will enough of them be available to meet demand? I’m not sure.
“Several of my producers planted Enlist soybeans in 2020. They knew there were some questions about the genetics, but we’ll get a chance to see how they do this year.
“Losing another tool like dicamba makes it even harder for producers to survive in the long run. If our cropping systems consist solely of two summer annual crops, we’re going to be on this hamster wheel forever.”
Dale Wells, Ind. Cotton Services, Inc., Leachville, Arkansas
“Whether dicamba is or isn’t an option next year probably won’t matter much to us. We planted dicamba cotton in 2020 but only included the herbicide in a burndown spray, and we didn’t intend to apply it in cotton over the top.
“Partly, we went with dicamba varieties because of the way they perform, but we also planted those varieties as insurance in case dicamba moved into our fields from other sources.
“Several years ago, we stopped using preemerge herbicides in our program. We would apply residuals once the cotton came up, but we were basically hitting the weeds with Roundup and Liberty.
“This year, though, all my growers started using Cotoran and Caparol in a preemergence program, and we got off to a cleaner start. Of course, not every field is 100% clean, and we did a limited amount of chopping. But I think using the pre herbicides made a big difference.
“This preemerge program has been a recommendation for several years, but farmers also remembered when Cotoran was harsh on cotton and caused some degree of injury as a pre. But we’re using lower rates now and haven’t seen any injuries to the cotton, and it’s taking care of weeds.
“We’re also taking a look at PhytoGen varieties to see what might fit in 2021, and that gives us the option to apply Enlist.
“Weather delayed planting this spring, and we had to switch our last cotton acres to soybeans. Arkansas doesn’t allow dicamba applications after May 25, and we planted those beans after the state’s cutoff date. So, it was more practical to go with Enlist soybeans.
“Even without using Enlist, this system allows us to spray the same herbicides (glyphosate and glufosinate) in the soybeans that we use in the cotton without a drastic cleanup, which is an advantage.”
Billy McLawhorn, McLawhorn Crops Services, Inc., Cove City, North Carolina:
“Dicamba is a great tool for us and it’s a tool that we need. Like most of the South, Palmer amaranth drives our weed control programs. In general, we have a better handle on it than we did a few years ago, and some of that is because of the tools for using dicamba.
“But growers in our area may be more prepared to operate without phenoxy herbicides in most cases – mainly because we can’t use it in a lot of fields. We have to control weeds without dicamba in certain locations because of proximity to sensitive crops like tobacco and sweet potatoes. Plus, we have large rural populations with extensive gardens.
“If we don’t have dicamba, we likely will plant a lot more Enlist and LibertyLink soybeans. In cotton, a number of my growers plant dicamba-traited cotton, but don’t put any out. They just like the varieties.
“For weed control, we rely heavily on a strong preemergence program. Growers focus on getting off to a good clean start and then come in with glufosinate. We do try to limit glufosinate so we don’t go down the same road to resistance that we went down with glyphosate.
“Those who can rotate herbicides do so and are responsible with them, but we don’t have many tools. I worry about having the toolbox, so we can have weed control plans A, B and C and mix them up.”
Reynold Minsky, Minsky Consulting Services, Inc. Lake Providence, Louisiana
“We’re going to have to start doing a fall burndown and put down some residual herbicides that will kill pigweed before they emerge. Then we’ll have to do the same thing in January and February to renew the residual.
“Resistant Italian ryegrass will also need attention in the fall. We’re already in trouble with ryegrass. We can’t control it, and a lot of crops were planted into ryegrass this year. Now, we’re suffering because of that.
“A number of my producers went with Enlist cotton in 2020, and we potentially could plant more in 2021. The big test is whether or not the Enlist varieties can yield as well as Xtend varieties. We’ll know more about that this fall.
“The Xtend varieties are producers, and they’ve been good for us. I hope we will stay with it and use the technology like it’s supposed to be used. Our growers are very careful with dicamba postemergence products.”
Joe Renfro, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Southwestern Oklahoma:
“Nearly all my customers used dicamba technology, so they’re concerned about weed management next year. They’ll need to start by using preemerge yellow-type herbicides, similar to what they applied years ago. We’ve recommended the use of preemerges all along. But with low cotton prices and high input costs, some growers haven’t adopted that weed-control strategy.
“It’s different now without dicamba, and a preemerge program helps. Growers can start applications as early as December and take advantage of winter moisture. If it’s a dryland field, they should apply a preemerge if rain is in the forecast. If it’s irrigated, they can spray right before they plant and then water it in.
“Liberty works well here. We use it over the top to help manage resistant pigweed. Growers should apply Liberty at about 35% or higher humidity and temperatures at 85 degrees or lower. It’s sometimes difficult to find that application window at the right time. Nevertheless, with the success of Liberty, Roundup can be used in the mix to handle many weeds, other than resistant pigweed or waterhemp.
“The post-emerge program can include residuals applied by hooded sprayers. Residuals can also be applied by layby rigs or banding over the top. Cultivators may also be needed to handle flushes. With GPS, cultivating should be an easier task.
“We’re hopeful that the court overturns the dicamba ban. It’s a dependable herbicide and has helped control resistant pigweed. But if growers must take a different approach, they should study how yellows and other preemerge herbicides can help them start clean at planting time.”
Tucker Miller, Ind. Consultant, Drew, Mississippi
“We have been discussing a backup plan for 2021 if dicamba isn’t allowed. It really depends on whether Enlist with 2,4-D will be available. If it is, I’m also not sure whether enough seed will be available in the PhytoGen-Enlist varieties we’d consider planting.
“Our ‘plan B’ on the DeltaPine cotton is to try to get Reflex out 2 weeks prior to planting and go with a good preemerge application with Cotoran.
“We’ve even talked about bringing out our old cultivators and maybe make a post-directed spray with something like Cotoran and then gradually move up to Caparol. Of course, Liberty will be used a lot with the hope that it won’t be too wet to spray by ground.
“Liberty doesn’t perform well when you apply it by air because you can’t put out enough water. And if the weeds grow very big, you can’t kill them with Liberty without burning the tops a few times.
“We do have dicamba soybeans, but you have a better chance of success with soybeans. We can make a good burndown application and then follow in with Gramoxone and Boundary. If you get a rain to activate it, that will keep soybeans pretty clean. With twin-row soybeans, we also stand a better chance than with cotton because those bean plants shade the middles faster.”