Report shows specific pesticide hurts more soybeans than expected

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JEFFERSON CITY - Richard Oswald said you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

"The soybeans themselves are the same, except they have that gene that gives them resistance to dicamba," Oswald said. Dicamba is a frequently-used and controversial pesticide. 

Oswald is the president of the Missouri Farmers Union and owns a farm in Langsdon, Missouri. Oswald said he's been farming for years, but he recently planted a new type of soybean seed this year - not by choice, but to survive.

"We planted dicamba [resistant] beans for the first time this year, and it's a good crop - they yielded well," Oswald said.

"But one of the reasons we used dicamba-resistant soybeans was because we heard of all the difficulties in Arkansas and Missouri last year where people sprayed dicamba off-label and damaged other people's crops. So, we didn't want our soybeans to be damaged by our neighbors if they sprayed dicamba and it drifted into our fields."

MU Plant Sciences Professor Kevin Bradley published a report on Monday, stating, "There were approximately 3.6 million acres of soybean that were injured by offsite movement of dicamba at some point during 2017." A New York Times article about the nationwide dangers of dicamba drift was published on Wednesday and cited Bradley's findings.

President of the Missouri Farm Bureau Blake Hurst said farmers throughout the state have contacted the department about dicamba. Hurst also said the comments have varied in opinion.

"We have lots of members who use the technology and are pleased," Hurst said. "We have lots of members who have seen damage in their fields and are not pleased, so what we're trying to do, or what the state's trying to do, is work through a solution that could both protect the technology that's useful to problems, while protecting the neighbors as well."

Hurst also said more research is needed to provide a proper context on the harmful effects of dicamba.

"There's various things that could be causing the problem and we're not sure how much blame to put on each of these [smaller] problems," Hurst said. "Is it caused by wind movement? Is it caused by volatility? Is it caused by farmers perhaps not following the regulations as closely as they should? I'm sure all three of those things have occurred, but we're not sure what proportion of each is causing the problem."

Hurst said the sooner more research is completed, the sooner statewide regulations regarding dicamba will be discussed.

"We anticipate it will be very soon - I know on our farm, we're not making those decisions until we find out what exactly the new requirements will be from the department of agriculture," Hurst said.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a section on its website titled "Dicamba Facts," which provides official information from the state on the pesticide.