CORRECTION: In-crop Dicamba applications end May 25

By Camden Metheny
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO — Arkansas farmers must stop in-crop applications of dicamba pesticide no later than Saturday, May 25 or potentially face fines up to $25,0000.

The rule applies to all dicamba products registered for in-crop use in the state, which includes Engenia, Fexapan, Tavium Plus Vaporgrip, and Xtendimax. While the cutoff affects the vast majority of state farmers, farmers within the Mississippi River levee areas can apply for a special permit as they typically plant later due to high river levels in the spring, according to the Arkansas State Plant Board. The board changed usage rules in March, including:

  • A half-mile buffer zone required around all non-dicamba crops when dicamba is applied.
  • A one-mile buffer zone for university and USDA research stations, certified organic crops and commercially grown specialty crops between April 16 and May 25.
  • Prohibiting the mixing of dicamba with glyphosate between April 16 and May 25.
  • Requiring applicators to provide proof of training to pesticide dealers prior to purchasing dicamba in-crop products.

Controversy surrounds the use of dicamba due to the pesticide damaging non-resistant crops. An estimated 3.8 million acres of soybeans have shown symptoms of dicamba damage. Because of this, many farmers have complaints.

Dan Hosman, a farmer from Craighead County, is one of many in Arkansas who are opposed to using dicamba.

“As a steward of the land, after a good deal of research, it’s just too volatile to use,” Hosman said. “There’s different alternatives that we should employ before hurting someone else’s crops.”

The reason dicamba is so dangerous is due to its volatility, meaning it can vaporize instantly. This causes it to spread to more crops and without the genetic resistance it can cause serious harm to those plants.

However, dicamba isn’t just dangerous to plants.

Richard Coy, a bee farmer in Arkansas, is also affected by the use of dicamba. In 2017, he noticed a significant drop in honey production due to the use of the pesticide in fields where Coy’s hives are located. With the loosening of restrictions on the cutoff date for use of the pesticide, this puts several Arkansas beekeepers in jeopardy as the season moves forward. In an interview with KASU, Coy said dicamba wasn’t killing the bees but the plants they needed in order to pollinate.

“The plants that produce the honey that we were selling to the retail market are the plants that have been severely damaged and the honey that are our bees collect off of other vegetation is not as desirable and I did not want to put a product that is undesirable on the shelf,” he said

The use of dicamba has been a contentious topic in Arkansas to the point where one farmer was shot and killed over the use of dicamba. Mike Wallace, a farmer in Monette, died in a 2016 altercation with a farmhand due to the pesticide drifting into Wallace’s fields. He had always been a vocal opponent of dicamba, appearing in a Wall Street Journal describing how the chemical killed 40 percent of his soybeans.

EDITOR’s NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that dicamba pesticide could be applied between May 26-Oct. 31 if a half-mile buffer was maintained between non-treated plants. Although DDNS does not knowingly publish inaccuracies, errors are corrected as soon as possible regardless of the source of the error.