ByL Kay Ledbetter
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service stands ready to advise producers on agronomic alternatives and options in the wake of a June 3 ruling from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to immediately vacate the registrations of three dicamba products, Xtendimax, FeXapan and Engenia.
Approximately 80% of the state’s cotton has been planted, and an estimated 60-80% is XtendFlex cotton – a dicamba-tolerant cotton that would have allowed the application of available registered dicamba herbicide products for weed control.
Producers are working to determine their next moves, which are somewhat complicated by the different actions being taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the Texas Department of Agriculture, TDA, as well as those pesticide registrants involved in the litigation.
Dan Hale, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director, College Station, suggests producers comply with the EPA existing stocks provisions by making allowable applications of products according to the specific product labels.
AgriLife Extension cotton specialists and county agents also suggest producers consider selecting alternative seed options with other herbicide technologies such as 2,4-D, if they have not planted their 2020 cotton crops.
In 2016, EPA granted conditional, two-year registrations for these three products. When this conditional registration was set to expire in late 2018, EPA approved another conditional two-year registration for the products, with additional restrictions on use, said Scott Nolte, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state weed specialist.
In addition to being federally restricted-use pesticides, these dicamba products were “state-limited-use” pesticides in Texas, requiring specific applicator training annually prior to use, Nolte said. AgriLife Extension has offered this training to more than 7,000 producers in 2018, 4,500 in 2019 and 3,200 this year.
Status of the cotton crop across Texas
Reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomists from around the state provided these estimates:
- In the South Plains, an estimated 80% of the producers use the dicamba technology and at least 80% of that seed is already in the ground, said Murilo Maeda, Ph.D., Lubbock.
- In the Coastal Bend region, roughly 50% of the already-planted cotton crop is using those technologies, said Josh McGinty, Ph.D., Corpus Christi.
- In West Central Texas, approximately 60% of the cotton has been planted, with primarily dryland left to plant. About 70% of the producers utilize these technologies, and have already purchased seed, fungicide and some herbicides, said Reagan Noland, Ph.D., San Angelo.
- In the Rolling Plains region, about 80% of the producers incorporated the technology into this year’s crop, which is 70% planted, said Emi Kimura, Ph.D., Vernon.
- In the High Plains, all cotton acres are planted, as the last date to plant was May 31, and at least 50% or more of the producers use these technologies, said Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., Amarillo.
- Distribution or sale by any person is generally prohibited except for ensuring proper disposal or return to the registrant. Keep in mind that “distribution” is broadly defined as including “distributing, selling, offering for sale, holding for sale, shipping, holding for shipment, delivering for shipment, or receiving and (having so received) delivering or offering to deliver, or releasing for shipment to any person in any state.”
- Commercial applicators may distribute or sell existing stocks that are in their possession. Existing stocks are defined as the products “which were packaged, labeled, and released for shipment prior to the time of the order on June 3, 2020.”
- Growers may use any existing stocks, as defined above, consistent with the product’s previously approved label and may not continue after July 31.
- Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has said he will formally request a Section 18 exemption from the EPA to allow the continued use of dicamba in Texas under emergency conditions.
Moving forward without the dicamba technologies
So, what are cotton producers to do now? They have a few options.
Nolte and Peter Dotray, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research weed scientist, Lubbock, suggest affected producers consider some alternative weed control options to address management problems considering this new development.
Preplant and at-plant soil residual herbicides were used by most growers, and it will be critical to use additional soil residual herbicides such as Dual, Warrant and Outlook early or mid- postemergence, regardless of what postemergence herbicide is used, they said.
“Based on the EPA’s order, we expect growers to continue to rely on dicamba until July 31,” Dotray said. “When dicamba is limited or not available, glyphosate and/or glufosinate may be used at one or both of the postemergence application timings. We may see more cultivation and hooded sprayers used to manage weeds.”
Producers can access the latest version of the AgriLife Extension cotton weed management guide for more information.
Additionally, Syngenta’s Tavium Plus Vapor Grip, which was registered separately in 2019, was not included in this litigation. Its registration, which allows application to Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton, remains in place. It has label restrictions that must be followed. In cotton, a single postemergence application may be made until the 6-leaf cotton stage or 60 days after planting, whichever comes first.
Federal and state reactions to court ruling
While the court ruling was made on June 3 and effective on that date, on June 8, the EPA issued an order providing guidance on the sale, distribution and use of existing stocks of the three affected dicamba products. The EPA order stated in part:
The Texas cotton crop is already growing or going in the ground right now, and “our cotton growers must have certainty,” Miller said.
An Emergency Exemption under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, FIFRA, would authorize EPA to allow limited use of the pesticide in defined geographic areas for a finite period once the EPA confirms that the situation meets the statutory definition of an “emergency condition.”