Dicamba Complaints On The Rise, Come In At Unprecedented Rates

Jun 29, 2017

Soybean leaves showing evidence of damage from dicamba. Thousands of acres of soybean fields have shown this kind of damage this spring.
Credit University of Arkansas
Credit Arkansas Agriculture Department

The number of complaints in Arkansas linked to the potential misuse of the herbicide dicamba has risen.

The Arkansas Plant Board says residents of 20 counties have submitted more than 430 complaints linked to dicamba. A majority of complaints are concentrated in east Arkansas, with Mississippi County having the most. A few complaints have also popped up around central Arkansas, in Lonoke, Jefferson and White counties.

Dicamba is an herbicide applied to a specific genetically-tolerant variety of soybean produced by Monsanto. Dicamba applied to a soybean field can drift in the wind and cause widespread damage to genetically intolerant varieties of soybeans and other crops, including fruit trees. The only type of dicamba allowed in the state is produced by BASF, under the trade-name Engenia.

The Arkansas Plant Board says it will investigate all complaints linked to the herbicide, and determine if any regulations were violated. The board voted last week to ban the sale and use of all kinds of dicamba for the rest of the growing season, but the ban depends upon the approval of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Legislative Council.

"Nobody was quite prepared, despite extensive training, for just how sensitive beans were to dicamba," Bob Scott, a specialist on weeds with the University of Arkansas's agricultural extension service, told NPR.

"As soon as spraying started this spring, the complaints began arriving. By June 23, state regulators had received 242 complaints from farmers who say their crops have been damaged. "This has far eclipsed any previous number of complaints that we've gotten, and unfortunately, this number seems to just keep growing," says Scott. "Every day we get an update with eight or ten more complaints."