Washington, D.C. — The EPA has made up its mind about dicamba: it is “a valuable pest control tool for America’s farmers,” according to the EPA’s press release. The registration has been extended until December 20th, 2020.
The extended registration comes with some new rules. Only certified applicators can apply it; people working under the supervision of a certified applicator have been barred from doing so. Application on soybeans must stop 45 days after planting, and on cotton, 60 days after planting. Applications will only be allowed from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset.
Bob Hartzler, professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, wrote that he sees “little value” in these restrictions. He doesn’t believe that the classification of applicator “has a big influence on the likelihood of off-target movement.”
NPR points out that dicamba is largely in use nowadays because glyphosate doesn’t work so well anymore: weeds like Palmer amaranth have become immune to it.
Dicamba is sold by Monsanto under the name XtendiMax, which also sells dicamba-tolerant seeds.
Dicamba is not immune to complaints: it drifts, regardless of formulation, and in 2017 there were thousands of reports of damage to non-dicamba-tolerant species, including species at risk of extinction. Farmers feel that they will be forced to plant dicamba-tolerant seeds next year, if only to protect them from dicamba drift.
The Center for Food Safety points out that dicamba is “an extremely potent killer of flowering plants, including some that are endangered themselves or provide habitat for endangered animals.” They also suggest that killing off flowering plants will hurt honeybees, who rely on those plants for nectar.