While seed companies would lead you to believe growers will be planting dicamba-tolerant soybeans this spring to improve yields or do a better job of controlling weeds, results from a No-Till Farmer survey indicate many will only be doing so to protect their bean crop against potential herbicide drift concerns from neighboring soybean fields.

Results from this mid-February electronic survey that drew responses from 472 no-tillers show 43% of these growers will no-till dicamba-tolerant soybeans this spring. Another 51% will not be planting dicamba-tolerant beans, while 6% had not finalized their planting intentions.

Among growers planting dicamba-tolerant beans, 27% expect to spray dicamba herbicide on all of their soybean acres, while 35% expect to spray dicamba on only a portion of their bean acres. Some 38% indicated it’s still an option, but actual use will depend on what weed pressures develop.

Among those growers who will no-till dicamba-tolerant beans, they expect to plant half of their bean acres to these new genetics. Only 3% of these growers indicated they will plant all of this year’s bean acres to dicamba-tolerant varieties.

Drift Concerns Real

These no-tillers were also asked to list the major reason they’ll plant dicamba-tolerant soybeans. Some 47% indicated it’s to tackle changing weed pressures. Another 29% indicated it was to capture an anticipated yield potential due to improved genetics.

However, an amazing 24% indicated the major reason they will plant dicamba-tolerant bean varieties is to protect their soybeans fields from potential drift concerns that might come from nearby fields where neighbors may be planting the new varieties and spraying dicamba.

Among growers who expect a yield increase with the newer varieties, the average anticipated yield boost is 3.9 bushels per acre. Expected yield increases ranged up to 15 bushels.

Growers were also asked if they felt it’s unfair for seed companies to only offer the latest genetic improvements in newer, higher-priced soybean varieties, such as with dicamba-tolerant bean seed. Some 59% of the growers feel this practice is unfair to farmers.

Fewer Roundup Ready Beans

In addition to the mid-February electronic survey, 36% of No-Till Farmer readers who responded to this year’s 10th annual Benchmark Study will no-till dicamba-tolerant varieties this spring, an increase from 21% in 2017. (Click here to view our annual report.)

Data from this yearly survey show the number of growers no-tilling Roundup Ready soybean varieties has dropped from 91% in 2015 to 68% this year. During the same 4-year span, the number of growers planting LibertyLink beans has increased from 12% to 25% in 2018. Only 4% of growers expect to no-till dicamba-tolerant Enlist bean varieties this spring.

As a result, a higher proportion of soybeans acres will be planted to Monsanto’s XtendiMax, BASF’s Engenia and DuPont’s FeXapan dicamba-tolerant varieties this spring,

As a result, we’re likely to again see considerable dicamba damage this spring and summer. Last year, an estimated 3.6 million acres of U.S. soybeans showed signs of injury linked to dicamba.

Mainly due to potential volatilization and drift concerns, the EPA has declared these dicamba products as restricted-use herbicides for 2018. Both federal and state label requirements for 2018 call for required dicamba applicator training, strict record keeping, calendar restrictions on spraying, allowing application only when wind speeds are between 3 and 10 mph and much more.

The EPA has made it clear they will not label additional dicamba products until concerns are solved with the current products. 

In a winter poll conducted by CropLife magazine, ag chemical dealers were asked what they think will happen with further EPA scheduled reviews this fall. Some 39% of dealers felt EPA will extend the label only for a short period of time, while 29% feel it will get fully reapproved for future use.

However, 24% of suppliers don’t feel the current dicamba labels will gain any kind of EPA reapproval.

How well growers follow this year’s restrictions will have a huge impact on further use of these dicamba-tolerant soybean varieties and the herbicides. It’s essential for growers take the necessary steps to minimize off-target movement of these herbicides during the coming growing season.