By Betty Haynes

The U.S. EPA has cut off in-season dicamba applications by an additional 8 days for the 2023 growing season, potentially putting farmers in a bind who’ve already bought seed and herbicide.

With spring soybean planting just a month and half away for many farmers, the U.S. EPA has released new dicamba usage restrictions for the 2023 growing season that apply only to in-season dicamba use in soybeans. States affected by the ruling include Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and South Dakota.

The new labels cut off over-the-top dicamba application in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana on June 12 or the V4 stage, whichever comes first. This is 8 days prior to the 2022 cutoff date of June 20 for Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. The label sets the new application cutoff for South Dakota at June 20, rather than the previous cutoff of June 30.

“We are literally within a month and a half of soybean planting beginning across these three states,” says Aaron Hager, University of Illinois weed scientist. “The timing of this is troubling. It's going to be a challenge. I’m afraid for soybean farmers who have already made their seed and herbicide purchases for the 2023 growing season.”

Hager says he hadn’t received any communication from federal or state regulatory agencies on the changes.

“Essentially what the letter to the registrars from the agency suggests is that they considered the June 12 cutoff date because of what occurred in Minnesota last year,” he says.

Minnesota’s Switch

Minnesota switched to a June 12 cutoff date in 2022, and the number of off-target damage complaints to the state department of agriculture decreased dramatically. “We would love to see these decisions be made in September or October before retailers or farmers have made decisions,” says KJ Johnson, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association.

Johnson says his biggest concern is that retailers already have products in their tanks and many farmers have already locked in their 2023 programs. He recommends farmers who have purchased their seed and herbicide to communicate with their retailer in the coming weeks on options.

“If you want to trade that product, that needs to be done now or in the next week,” he says. “If you want to go to an Enlist or a Liberty type product, you need to do that now rather than midseason. Because if there is going to be any kind of buyback program, it will be sooner rather than later.”

According to the U.S. EPA, the three companies that produce dicamba products for over-the-top use proposed the new date cutoffs in an effort to reduce off-target drift complaints in those states.

Johnson says he doesn’t anticipate any supply shortages for the 2023 growing season, and doesn’t expect any additional dicamba restrictions from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“I want make it perfectly clear that these label changes are coming out of U.S. EPA,” Johnson says. “This is not [ag director] Jerry Costello or the Department of Ag’s decision. This is the base label coming out of EPA, and Jerry has to follow that base label.”

Rules Vary Across U.S.

This decision further complicates a patchwork of guidelines surrounding dicamba application across the U.S., which varies by state, crop and product. The latest label change applies only to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota, and applies only to dicamba products for dicamba-resistant soybeans. For example, Indiana does not have a temperature restriction, but this ruling moves its cutoff date from June 20 to June 12. In Illinois, the following guidelines are in place for 2023 in-season dicamba applications to soybeans:

  • Do not apply dicamba if air temperature is over 85 degrees F.
  • Do not apply where wind is blowing toward adjacent residential areas.
  • Must consult FieldWatch sensitive crop registry before application.
  • Do not apply when the wind is blowing toward any adjacent Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site.
  • Do not apply after June 12 or V4 stage (new for 2023).

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