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Dicamba: Herbicide issue dominates Northern Ag Expo

Dicamba herbicide regulations for 2018 were the No. 1 topic at the North Dakota Ag Expo Wednesday, Nov. 29, in Fargo. Here, Doug Goehring, North Dakota agriculture commissioner, explains state-specific rules affecting application date cutoffs and state notifications, among other things. (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service/Agweek)1 / 3
Lindsey Novak, (right center) an assistant professor of agriculture at Bismarck State College, asks questions about dicamba training and reporting logistics during a session featuring North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring at the Northern Ag Expo Wednesday, Nov. 29, in Fargo. (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service/Agweek)2 / 3
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring (left) and Eric Delzer, pesticide and fertilizer program director, field questions about 2018 state rules regarding the new dicamba formulations at the Northern Ag Expo Wednesday, Nov. 28, in Fargo. (Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service/Agweek)3 / 3

FARGO—North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring ran into mixed reactions to his department's dicamba application rules at the Northern Ag Expo in Fargo, and he acknowledged they might be "tweaked."

The commissioner and Eric Delzer, the North Dakota Agriculture Department's pesticide and fertilizer program director, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, explained new rules that had come out in a press release the day before. Some in the crowd asked for a 30-day comment period and suggested logistics that may be a problem in the 2018 cropping season.

Goehring, one of several speakers speaking to packed meeting rooms on dicamba at the Northern Ag Expo at the Fargodome, told Agweek some of the new rules may be affected by input from farmers and others.

Emotions are running high—for and against—the technology that affects beans that aren't genetically-modified to be resistant. Some farmers in the audience were happy for more clarity on a cutoff date of June 30 for application, but others expressed concerns over new state notification requirements. Direct-drift or off-target movement of the chemical in the form of volatilization or particles caused apparent effects on thousands of acres of beans in the state in 2017, but yield impacts have not been determined.

Real jumble

Terry Weckerly, a farmer from Hurdsfield, N.D., said the reporting requirements are "going to take time" and said advance notice to the state is going to be a "real jumble" for growers.

"There are so many things that get lost in your busy time," he said. "We don't want it, that's for sure."

Weckerly said he would have preferred to see no cutoff date for the chemical, to account for late planting dates.

"I really think the temperature thing is more important," Weckerly said, adding the important issue is his farm's liability issues more than regulatory issues. "If I make a mistake, either my insurance company has to pay for it or I have to pay for it. If my insurance company pays for it too often, either my rates are going to go up or they're going to drop me."

Reed Erickson who farms near Buffalo, N.D., said the June 30 cutoff "solidifies" and "cleans up up the rules for everyone."

Meanwhile, Andrew Thostenson, a North Dakota State University Extension Service pesticide specialist, said NDSU scientists had input into the state regulations. He said the NDSU recommendation for dicamba application in-crop will be June 20—ten days earlier than the state deadline announced by Goehring—but said university officials don't have the same pressures that regulators do.

Goehring said farmers will not be allowed to apply the herbicide when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts temperatures of 86 or greater for the intended application date. He suggested site-specific forecasts might be available.

NOAA forecast

Lindsey Novak, an assistant professor at Bismarck (N.D.) State College, who earlier worked with Syngenta and the NDSU Extension Service, said she is concerned about the logistics of accurately reporting spraying intention, especially by phone.

"I'd hate to be the poor administrative assistant in the Department of Ag—you know, taking all of those phone calls," Novak said. "You'd probably have to have 10 people answering phones when it's busy."

She agreed with an audience member who said the same information is already being reported and recorded at a different level.

"What is the true need?" Novak said.

The chemical manufacturers are responsible for face-to-face meetings, which for the first time will apply to all dicamba applicators, not just supervisors.

Goehring said trainings are set to take place in as many as a dozen locations across the state from January through March, and the training may need to be repeated annually.

"I'm just thinking of the thousands—thousands of people that will have to be trained, and how can we make sure our workers and then my students are prepared to do the job," Novak said.

Goehring said there will be online training options for late-hired workers in April or even June. The commissioner said there is no mechanism to prevent all applicants from waiting for the online training rather than training in person.

Others wondered about the reliability of weather information.

NDAWN's role

Separately, Daryl Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network at NDSU, said only 11 sites out of 91 NDAWN stations currently have the two-level temperature sensors in place to indicate that a temperature inversion has taken place. Those stations are east of Highway 281 and some are in Minnesota. The system doesn't do forecasts.

He said he has funding and plans to double up to 25, offering "much better coverage" for 2018. Inversions are "widespread meteorological events," so he thinks the data can be made "very valid" across the soybean-growing regions of the state. It costs less than $500 per site to update the sites.

Temperatures at many stations are taken at 5 feet above the ground. The stations need to add sensors at 3 and 10 feet levels to indicate the presence of temperature inversions.

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