Cotton herbicide gets nod from state Plant Board

Published 23 November 2017

A committee of the state Plant Board on Tuesday recommended that a new herbicide by Dow Agrosciences for use on cotton tolerant of 2,4-D be allowed in Arkansas next season.

The 3-1 vote moves the matter to the full Plant Board when it next meets on Dec. 12. The board's approval would then send the issue to a 30-day public comment period and to a public hearing.

Danny Finch, a Jonesboro farmer appointed by the governor to represent cotton growers, voted against issuing the label, calling 2,4-D a threat to other varieties of cotton that are not genetically modified to be tolerant of the chemical.

Finch compared the potential threat with damage reported this year to soybeans and other crops caused by dicamba. "We're in the fields and we're seeing the product move off target," Finch said. "We don't want to go through this like we did with dicamba."

The state received nearly 1,000 dicamba complaints this summer.

Dow recently gained approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency for Enlist One, a herbicide for the company's Enlist cotton system. The 34 cotton-growing states where the herbicide has been approved are allowed by federal law to make their state labels more restrictive.

Dow representatives told members of the board's pesticide committee that its studies show Enlist One is less susceptible to physical drift and to "volatilizing," or vaporizing off sprayed plants and moving to distant fields.

Weed scientists with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, who said they've studied the herbicide for four or five years, agreed. "We haven't seen any unexplained movement," said Jason Norsworthy, a UA weed scientist.

A colleague, Tom Barber, said the herbicide also has proved to be an effective weedkiller, especially weeds that have grown tolerant to glyphosate and other chemicals.

Of the 500,000 acres of cotton planted in Arkansas this year, about 15,000 acres were of the Dow Enlist variety. The company expects to have 80,000 Enlist cotton acres in Arkansas next year.

Finch said wider use of the cottonseed will result in more spraying and a higher risk to other cotton varieties. "My phone starts ringing when you talk about 2,4-D coming near cotton," Finch said. "We get calls when it's used on golf courses. We get calls when it's used on cemeteries. You better be really careful when you bring that to town."

Farmers who sign contracts with Dow to plant 2,4-D tolerant cotton will see those contracts pulled by the company if they use illegal 2,4-D products, Jonathan Siebert, a Dow representative, told the board.

Fines of up to $25,000 for egregious violations of Arkansas pesticide law will be in place next year.

Siebert said the company also gave farmers a $4.50-an-acre rebate this year to encourage purchase and use of Enlist Duo, a blend of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate that was allowed in Arkansas this year. Enlist One is a single-ingredient herbicide that can be mixed with other chemicals, including glufosinate and glyphosate.

The committee later took no action on Dow's effort to get a new rice herbicide, Loyant, into the Arkansas market next year after Denny Stokes, a Plant Board member representing aerial applicators, noted problems in the label approved by the EPA.

The label, Stokes said, wasn't consistent with Dow's own research. Approving the label in Arkansas would be "laying a trap" for aerial applicators and setting them up for violations of Arkansas pesticide regulations, he said.

Siebert and other Dow representatives agreed and said they'd contact the EPA to make changes.

Siebert also said no regulators from other states that have already approved the herbicide had noticed the problems in the label found by Stokes.

Business on 11/22/2017