More than 250 Southeast specialty crop farmers filled the room in Savannah, Ga., Jan. 11 and waited to hear firsthand from the two key players in the development of dicamba- and 2,4-D-tolerant row crops, something that has the specialty crop industry worried.
They came to hear Mark Peterson, Dow AgroSciences global biology leader on the Enlist Weed Control System (2,4-D choline), and Shannon Hauf, Monsanto lead on Roundup Ready Xtend (dicamba). The companies reformulated these tried-and-true herbicides and now have in the pipeline corn, cotton and soybean varieties resistant to the reformulation -- mighty tools in the battle against the herbicide-resistant weed epidemic spreading in the South.
"What we wanted to do was bring the two people, the ones at the "top of the food chain" on both 2,4-D and dicamba and give these specialty growers an idea of where we are at with these new technologies but more importantly to let them, respectively, voice their concerns and questions to them. It was a very unique opportunity," said Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension weed specialist, who organized the meeting.
So, why dicamba and 2,4-D? Both herbicides have a proven history, including sound environmental and toxicology records, and they work and handle a broad spectrum of weeds, including many resistant to glyphosate or other commonly used herbicides, especially Palmer amaranth, the No. 1 weed concern for cotton and soybean in the Southeast.
So why do specialty crop growers care? Off-the-shelf dicamba and 2,4-D on the market can damage specialty crops like fruits, vegetables and pecans, primarily when the herbicides drift or vaporize from a nearby field and move into another.
The new formulations promise to play nicer. Both companies, with the help of advisory committees that include specialty crop farmers, leaders and land-grant scientists, created application checklists and certification programs to prevent the two new products from drifting or vaporizing into susceptible crops, not just specialty crops but also onto other row crops that don't have the traits tolerant to the herbicides.
Questions were asked and hypothetical scenarios presented to Hauf and Peterson. What about requiring proof of insurance to use the product? How about a marker in the formula that can be tracked? Buffer zones?
Peterson and Hauf assured the crowd that introducing a new farm technology to help one segment while jeopardizing another segment wasn't right, and not good business. Both companies have specialty crop customers which account for $1 billion in annual sells for each company, business they don't want to mess with.
Was it enough to soothe the worry in the room? Read more about this meeting and the latest on these two new herbicide programs in the March issue of Southern Farmer in homes this week.