East Lansing, Michigan — The North Central IPM Center is pleased to announce a mid-year Working Group grant award to the North Central Region Herbicide-Drift Risk Management Working Group. The $20,000 grant was awarded to the group because of its urgent goals to develop and disseminate new resources for both row-crop farmers and specialty crop farmers, in order to assess and manage drift-damage risk.

North Central-produced vegetables, fruits, wines and certified organic products are among the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. agriculture industry. Yet the continued survival and profitability of these enterprises is threatened by droplet and vapor drift from the rapidly expanding use of highly phytotoxic herbicides that contain dicamba and 2,4-D chemicals. North Central growers of all varieties are a focal point for this group due to the cropping systems of the region. Because of the large number of corn and soybean fields in close proximity to specialty crops, drift-damage risks are an urgent matter. Exposure to horticultural crops is problematic because horticultural plant species tend to be more sensitive and will lose yield if exposed to dicamba. Certain horticultural and certified organic crops have no dicamba residue tolerance and may be rejected by regulation or their contracted buyers.

“The North Central IPM Center is funding this working group due to the ongoing issue of dicamba drift onto non-target crops,” said Lynnae Jess, director to the North Central IPM Center. “Identifying a baseline figure for off-target damage related to these chemicals is very complicated because of the many variables that go into off-target injuries; there are also a lack of resources and grower knowledge of drift, which can greatly hinder getting exact exposure numbers. A primary reason to fund this group at this time is to begin to try and quantify the issue for a preliminary needs assessment for all those involved.”

Weeds are a predominant pest of concern for row-crop farmers, as they compete with crops for nutrients and sunlight. If weed pressure is overlooked in crop fields, they can drastically reduce grain yield per every inch of weed growth. The introduction of a variety of herbicides into modern cropping systems granted the industry and growers firm control of these pests. However, because of these plants’ quick reproductive cycle and the adaptability to herbicides, more and more types of chemicals are required to maintain this control method. The creation of dicamba-tolerant soybeans has only increased the rate at which the product is used. This greater increases the risks of drift-related damage to certified organic crops, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, ornamentals, landscapes and natural and recreational areas. It also increases the risk of dicamba-related drift damage to conventionally grown soybeans, without the dicamba tolerant trait.

“Myself and others have spent a lot of time and effort trying to achieve funding to accomplish what we’re hoping to accomplish with this grant,” said Douglas Doohan, professor and state specialist in the Department of Horticulture & Crop Science at The Ohio State University, and principal investigator for the grant. “There are a lot of big issues to address in this area, but we hope to be able to establish a few priority topics, and develop some information pieces and fact sheets and handouts to distribute to farmers, applicators and dealers. We’re trying to bring people together. We want to go from issues to outcomes.”

The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) estimated there were approximately 3.6 million acres of dicamba-injured soybeans in 2017. And while dicamba off-target damage to soybean plants make up a majority of reports, there is considerable concern for horticultural and specialty crops, “particularly the Midwest, where the potential dicamba-treated soybean acreage is high.” According to a 2018 WSSA report, damage has also occurred in home gardens, landscape plants and natural vegetation including trees – cypress and certain oak species, and native herbaceous ground cover that serves as food for pollinators. Total data of low-rate dicamba exposure on native vegetation remains unquantified.

The group will be made up of a wide variety of stakeholders, including: weed, agronomic and horticultural crop specialists. The goals of the group are to develop and disseminate resources that will help all farmers recognize and respond to dicamba and 2, 4-D drift risk. The group will gather input on the immediate needs of growers, and educational opportunities will be identified and established. Such materials will be given to extension specialists and growers throughout the region, and feedback data will be tracked.

For more information about this group and its efforts, please contact either Ethan Stoetzer, with the North Central IPM Center, or Cassandra Brown, who assists in communications with the working group members.

Working Groups are one of two competitive grant programs offered by the North Central IPM Center. Working Group grants support collaboration among diverse groups and backgrounds to address a regional IPM priority. These priorities range from building networks, gathering and publishing information and resource and research compiling.
The North Central IPM Center is tasked with improving health, environmental and economic conditions in the north central region through leadership and cooperation with diverse stakeholders, to facilitate the development and adoption of integrated pest management solutions. The Center is one of four regional programs, that are part of the National IPM Centers program, serving stakeholders in the U.S. and abroad.