Potential Off-Target Dicamba Movement from Corn Applications

Potential Off-Target Dicamba Movement from Corn Applications February 15, 2018

The summer of 2017 brought challenges in the way of weather conditions and off-target movement of pesticides including dicamba. Often we hear about the three Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) dicamba products (XtendiMax®, FeXapan®, and Engenia®) causing off-target damage to sensitive plants. But were these three products to blame for all of it? Our observations suggest there was also potential off-target movement from dicamba based applications in corn in 2017.  With the exception of the three RUP dicamba products, application of dicamba does not have as many requirements to manage particle and vapor spray drift.

Situation

Rain, cold weather, and wind delayed post-emergence application of dicamba based herbicide in corn till the first few weeks of June, particularly in Thayer, Nuckolls, Fillmore, and Clay counties. Early June had high heat, some wind, and variations in relative humidity (Figures 1-4). These conditions may have allowed for potential volatility and temperature inversions.  Research by Behrens and Lueschen, 1979, showed increased volatility and soybean injury from dicamba with lower relative humidity (70-75%) compared to (85-95%) and increased temperature (Figure 5 and Table 1).

There were also areas of the State with large number of acres of dicamba applied to corn in hopes of controlling Palmer amaranth and weeds not controlled by previous herbicide applications. The above-mentioned counties had hundreds of thousands of acres of dicamba applications within a two week time in early June.

When soybean cupping damage began to appear in mid-June, it was difficult to determine where the drift originated. Phone calls to area farmers and Coops confirmed some correlation of dicamba applications to corn and often dicamba applications in Xtend soybean had not yet occurred.

The Plants Tell the Story

It can take 7-14 days for leaf damage from dicamba injury to appear on susceptible plants. This is because auxin-like herbicides affect only cell division. Thus, fully developed leaves (no longer expanding via cell division) are not affected even though they may be expanding by leaf cell enlargement. Because dicamba is also translocated once inside leaf cells, it impacts cell division of the leaf primordia at the stem apex. We may not even see those leaves yet because they are still enclosed in the stem apex tissue.

University of Nebraska research shows a soybean will produce a new node every 3.75 days (Specht et. al).

Considering this information, the local Extension educator used the following method to determine the potential timing of off-target dicamba injury on soybean:

  1. Ask the farmer when the soybean was planted. (Even better if he/she knows when the soybean emerged.)
  2. Count the number of nodes from emergence to the first damaged trifoliolate.
  3. Multiply the number of nodes by 3.75 to estimate how many days old the plant was at that node.
  4. Count back on the calendar 7-14 days to determine the potential timing of off-target movement to the soybean.
    Using this method correlated the majority of the time to a dicamba product applied to nearby corn in the fields examined in Thayer, Nuckolls, Fillmore, and Clay counties. Thus, the first dicamba off-target movement to soybean in this area of the state mostly occurred from dicamba applications in corn.
  5. Count how many nodes contained damaged trifoliolates. (On average, observation found four to six nodes were damaged with each off-target injury before plants grew out of the injury.)
  6. Nodes were also counted on the entire plant and multiplied by 3.75 to double check the age of the plant. This correlated well to determine the time of the first off-target injury. As plants progressed into August, with two to three potential off-target injuries, this method of checking wasn’t as reliable as the rate of new growth also appeared to be affected. Variation of rainfall and/or irrigation to help the plants “grow out” of the damage also affected the ability to always determine the timing of the second and/or third off-target injury.

*NOTE: The reasoning for a potential second and third off-target injury to the same fields was due to the injury symptomology on the trifoliolates. Plants receiving potential second and third off-target injuries appeared more severely damaged again in the succeeding trifoliolate sets, even after the previous trifoliolate set had “grown out” of the symptoms.

Chart of June 2018 temperatures and humidity
Figure 1 Maximum daily temperatures and humidity levels recorded at the University's South Central Ag Lab near Harvard in June 2017 (Source: Al Dutcher, Nebraska State Climate Office)
Maximum daily wind speeds at Harvard in June 2018
Figure 2. Maximum daily wind speed (mph) recorded in 1 minute at South Central Ag Lab (Harvard) in June 2017 (Source: Al Dutcher, Nebraska State Climate Office)
Chart of July 2018 temperature and humdity daily data
Figure 3. Maximum daily temperatures and humidity levels recorded at the University's South Central Ag Lab near Harvard in July 2017 (Source: Al Dutcher, Nebraska State Climate Office)
Chart of daily wind speeds at Harvard in July 2018
Figure 4, Maximum daily wind speeds recorded in mph at the University's South Central Ag Lab near Harvard in July 2017 (Source: Al Dutcher, Nebraska State Climate Office)
Soy injury from dicamba salts and humidity
Figure 5, Response of soybeans exposed at two humidity levels for 6 hours at 86F in closed glass jars to corn sprayed with 1.0 lb/ac of the DMA and DEOA salts of dicamba. (Source: Behrens, R. and W.E. Lueschen. 1979. Dicamba volatility. Weed Science Journal 27:486-493.)

Table 1. Effect of temperature on volatilization to soybean during six hours of exposure in greenhouse
Temperature
59 68 77 86 95 104
% soybean injury
3 15 32 40 32 35
Source: Behrens, R. and W.E. Lueschen. 1979. Dicamba volatility. Weed Science Journal 27:486-493.

Yield

We’re blessed in Nebraska to grow indeterminate soybean and to have irrigation and rainfall which potentially allow soybean to grow out of dicamba injury. “Indeterminate” means that the plants continue to develop vegetative growth and nodes once flowering occurs. In states to the south such as Missouri and Arkansas, “determinate” soybean varieties are grown, meaning that upon flowering, growth soon ceases. This can make a difference in yield observed on affected plants (depending on concentration of dicamba and timing of when the plants were injured).

Why the Bigger Problem in 2017?

We’ve used dicamba products in corn for decades and haven’t seen landscape level off-target dicamba injury on sensitive plants in the past.  So why the difference in 2017?  Perhaps it was a perfect storm of several factors: 

  • Higher number of corn acres were sprayed with dicamba than previously (hundreds of thousands of acres in the area of Nebraska mentioned above) coupled with
  • Late post-emergence applications into early/mid-June in a short time period coupled with
  • Using the highest labeled rates of dicamba to obtain good control of weeds including Palmer amaranth coupled with
  • The ability to add ammonium sulfate (AMS) to dicamba applications in corn according to the product label coupled with
  • High temperatures, wind, and fluxes in relative humidity allowing for potential off-target movement via particle drift, volatility and by temperature inversions.

Suggestions for 2018

Because of the potential for off-target movement from dicamba applications to corn and soybean, a team of Extension faculty have provided some best management practices in Can We Manage Dicamba Applications in 2018? We encourage considering best management practices to help reduce off-target movement in 2018 from dicamba applications to corn and soybean.

References

Behrens, R. and W.E. Lueschen. 1979. Dicamba volatility. Weed Science Journal 27:486-493.

Specht, James E., Jennifer M. Rees, Gary L. Zoubek, Keith L. Glewen, Brandy S. VanDeWalle, James W. Schneider, David L. Varner, Allan R. Vyhnalek. Soybean Planting Date When and Why, Nebraska Extension EC145.