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Dicamba-resistant soybeans awaiting consent from EPA

Illinois Correspondent

PEORIA, Ill. — Herbicide manufacturers are lining up waiting to introduce their versions of dicamba- and glyphosate-resistant soybean varieties, while farmers continue to wait to buy them.
It now appears they will have to wait at least one more growing season to purchase designated Roundup Ready 2 Xtend and other varieties due to the length of the U.S. EPA approval and review process, according to a Western Illinois University weed scientist.
“We are not going to have it for this growing season,” said Mark Bernards, who came to WIU after several years as an extension weed specialist at the University of Nebraska, of the new RR2X varieties.
Monsanto launched its RR2X varieties on Feb. 3. Many farmers had hoped the new technology, which promises to provide improved control of problematic weed populations with evolved resistance to glyphosate and dicamba, would be available in time for spring planting. Waterhemp and horseweed (marestail) are the two most common weed species to develop resistance found in Illinois soybean fields.
But even if EPA were to approve RR2X varieties today, it would be at least six months before a required public comment period and extensive review could be completed, Bernards told farmers at the 2016 Illinois Soybean Summit Feb. 25.
That would mean the earliest possible commercial release of the technology would come in late August, when 2016 soybeans should be entering the latter stages of growth and development.
Monsanto is not the only player, Bernards explained. “If you look at RR2X, the salt (content) is the same as we have in Clarity. But in order to make it safer to use, they’ve added an adjutant called “Vapor Grip” that reduces volatility,” he said.
In addition, “BASF, which makes most of the dicamba in the world, is developing a (competing) brand they call Engenia. To reduce volatility they have a new salt called BAPMA.
“Neither of these have been approved by EPA. We expect they will go through at around the same time. When the EPA decides to act, there will be a 30- to 90-day comment period, then the EPA has to review all of those comments. That’s typically a six-month timeline. So we’re not going to have this herbicide for use this growing season,” Bernards added.
He wondered if the EPA’s delay in approving RR2X is not directly related to the ongoing Enlist Duo lawsuit, in which EPA’s ability to make risk-based assessments and decide what new products and technologies to register is at stake.
If EPA loses the lawsuit, would environmentalists be able to use the courts to overturn the registration of RR2X and other products?
“The disappointing thing is that EPA probably did more homework on Enlist Duo than on any other herbicide they’ve ever registered. They required Dow (AgroSciences) to file a lot of data,” said Bernards. “I think this may be one contributing factor to why we haven’t seen any progress on approving Xtend; EPA is trying to figure out what they’re doing with Enlist Duo.”
Using dicamba on soybeans before the issuance of state or federal labels would be a violation of both state and federal laws, Bernards warned growers. However, applying dicamba to soils prior to planting dicamba-resistant soybean varieties is allowed, according to Aaron Hager, a University of Illinois weed scientist.
“But remember, this type of application must follow the herbicide label guidelines regardless of the soybean variety planted,” Hager noted in a Feb. 23 U of I extension news release.
For example, dicamba-based Clarity can be applied to control existing vegetation prior to planting, but 1 inch of precipitation must accumulate after application, followed by a 14- to 28-day interval (for 8- or 16-ounce applications, respectively) before planting can occur, he explained.
Hager said observations during 2015 point to a continued prevalence of both waterhemp and horseweed in fields across Illinois this year.
He, too, doubts that dicamba- and glyphosate-resistant soybeans will be available in time for planting.
Bernards told the farmers he supports Monsanto’s request for EPA approval and registration of RR2X, along with competing brands’ products.
“My opinion is, these are great tools. I’m excited to have them and hope they get through the regulatory process. I also hope we are careful with these new technologies and how we use them.”