Published on 10/26/17

Zero official pesticide drift complaints reported to Georgia Department of Agriculture

By Clint Thompson

No official pesticide drift complaints have been reported to the Georgia Department of Agriculture this year due to in-season applications of dicamba, or 2,4-D.

Sound science and assistance from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents led to Georgia farmers’ success in using dicamba technology in cotton and soybeans, according to UGA Extension weed specialist Stanley Culpepper.

From 2015 to 2017, UGA Extension agents and specialists coordinated classroom trainings in an effort to share their research-based results and, ultimately, to help Georgia cotton and soybean producers make wise decisions in safely and effectively implementing this technology. To date, 33 of these meetings have reached almost 3,000 participants.

“Understanding the sensitivity of the plants that surround the field when an applicator is ready to make an application is the No. 1 factor that helps us continue to reduce off-target movement of all pesticides,” Culpepper said. “These educational trainings help make applicators and farmers more aware and are a big reason why we haven’t had any complaints to the (Georgia) Department of Agriculture this year.”

Approximately 1.3 million acres of Georgia land planted with tolerant cotton or soybeans were treated with auxin herbicides, such as dicamba, during the growing season.

“Although we had a great year in regard to weed control and stewarding the new auxin technologies, we have much more to do if we want to preserve these weed management tools,” Culpepper said.

UGA Extension personnel will expand educational trainings through one-on-one meetings with producers and applicators statewide to further improve information delivery. Training sessions will continue until 2020.

UGA Extension county agents who have already started meeting with farmers and applicators believe the trainings have been, and will continue to be, worthwhile.

“What (the trainings) have pointed out for me is the level of understanding of the new technology. Even among those who are solid farmers, the level of understanding is low as far as how the chemistry is formulated and how it truly works,” Burke County Extension Coordinator Peyton Sapp said. “The whole approach that Georgia and UGA Extension has taken, embracing the new technology, has heightened the awareness of what’s going on around a particular field.”

Individual trainings involve county Extension agents visiting farms to teach growers and applicators about safe use of pesticides. Research identified 15 factors that applicators need to consider when managing off-target pesticide movement, including the spray nozzle, spray pressure, spray speed and the height of the boom above the target.

“We just want folks to realize that when they get to a field, they need to see what’s going on before they make a decision about whether they need to spray or not,” Irwin County Extension Coordinator Phillip Edwards said. “Make sure there aren’t any sensitive crops nearby. Make sure of the wind speed and the lay of the land. A lot of it is common sense, but these trainings serve as a reminder.”

Georgia farmers produce more than 50 high-value vegetable and fruit crops at the same time and sometimes around the same location that agronomic crops like auxin-tolerant cotton and soybeans are produced. All of these crops are vulnerable to pesticide drift.

Empowering growers and producers to keep pesticides on target and away from neighboring fields and gardens is one of UGA Extension’s top priorities.

Pierce County Extension Coordinator James Jacobs has met with the majority of the farmers in his county. He said that all of those farmers who have been trained have been very receptive to the lessons taught and appreciate the time and resources that specialists and agents have shared.

“Taking it to the farm — that’s what we’re doing. It gives farmers, and even those who work for them, an opportunity to ask questions. If we don’t know the answer, we get the answer and get it back to them. That’s the good thing because this is the time to ask questions and put some thought in some things,” Jacobs said.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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