Every year there is a problem with Dicamba and every year a whole bunch of people swear under oath they will abide by the labeling. Every year they lie. This year is no different than last. Dicamba keeps getting banned and the manufacturer keeps re-introducing it. We need to have the USDA, FDA, and EPA all band together to ban adding the resistance trait to any food crop seed. Trying to get the chemical banned will for all eternity will get tied up in court too long. We need to make it just as dangerous to use on your own crops as it is for your neighbors.
Dicamba Problems Started Back in 1966
I was just a toddler growing up on a family farm in the Midwest. Even when I was barely Kindergarten age I can remember hearing the conversations about “that damned chemical that drifts” and the local chemical companies promising my father they wouldn’t handle it anymore. Some have even dredged up the story and written about it again.
The difference between 1966 and now is the family farm is gone. Oh, trust me, I’ve read about the Superbowl ads featuring Illinois family farmers as part of the We are the 96 percent campaign. I’m telling you it doesn’t really exist. I still live on and help out with my family farm. Someone farming nearby did this.
Family vs. Corporate Family Farm
In the 1960s, if you did that to a neighbor’s field you were right over there talking to them, apologizing, and offering to make it right. Every “family farm” had livestock. You needed the neighbor’s kids to help bail hay and shell your corn, even walk your beans. It’s how rural kids earned money back then. Most of us were walking beans and helping with livestock chores from the age of 6 or 7.
Child labor was the norm on a family farm back then. Despite all of the “learned experts” making child labor illegal, it made better human beings out of all of us. When you spend all day working in the fields you don’t join gangs, do hard drugs, or shoot up a school. The “learned experts” should factor that into their spreadsheets.
It was this communal need that stopped anything with such devastating consequences from being used more than once. Nobody would screw their neighbors like that. This is the mentality which came up from the one room school house where all of the farm kids walked to school. We lived that close. Even when I went to school and rode the bus there we only had 52 kids in my class. Some of the teachers had taught my dad.
Today most farms are kind of “MBA run.” It’s all about this quarter’s numbers and the bottom line. You don’t need your neighbor’s kids because you got rid of livestock. This Screw the World mentality is all thanks to Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture.
Corporate Family Farms
Since that point in time we have been in a cycle of “corporate farms” even if they are run by a single family. Large scale operations, sometimes tens of thousands of acres, transporting equipment hundreds of miles each season. Huge cash rents paid to land owners too stupid to have a fertility clause in their contract. Strip mine the field for 5 years then leave when it won’t raise a crop anymore.
These people drive into a location, tear into it with 3-6 tractors/combines, rip through it in a single day, then leave. They have no idea who their neighbors are and don’t give a shit. That’s how you get stories like this. MBAs are purged of morals, ethics, and dignity; that’s what the sheepskin proves. I guess they finally did pay.
A real “family farm” where your family and the neighbor kids you hire are all eating those eggs wouldn’t operate in such a manner.
Since most of you aren’t farmers and don’t look at crops if you happen to drive through the country.
Give the fact I took that with a flip phone while out on my four mile walk, let me link you to a free picture of green healthy soybeans.
Now, up close and personal, here is an image of Dicamba damage from an excellent article on diagnosing the damage.
An excellent read on Dicamba can be found in this Progressive Farmer article. When most people think of “weed killer” they think “squirt the weed and it dies.” Dicamba is a growth inhibitor. Stop the growth and a plant will get shaded out and die before making seed. Dicamba also has a real drift problem. It can drift out of a field 48 hours after you spray it.
Labels Can’t Fix This Problem
We have to ban the trait so there is nothing safe to spray Dicamba on. The cut-off date for spraying Dicamba was June 12 in 2023. Field was sprayed on July 5th. No amount of promises can make Dicamba “safe.”
How We Got Here
The simple truth is piss poor weed management and Earl Butz. When I was a kid we didn’t have weed control chemicals for soybeans. We had kids, and these things.
You walked every row of soybeans cutting out the weeds. Corn had 2-4-D for broad leaf control. During my teens we had Basagran. Had to be blended with crop oil and water. If you didn’t get rain within 5 days of spraying it could cut your yield by 15 bushel/acre or more according to what I remember. Farmers planted a lot of “public variety” beans then.
There were plenty of kids. Labor wasn’t free. Rows were half a mile long and the water jug was back where you started.
As more homes got air conditioning there were fewer kids to walk beans. We had to get automation.
Enter the Weber Weeder. That bent pipe sticking up is where you mounted your umbrella. Steered it with your foot. That lever on the foot rest controlled the throttle. Four rows at a time and one long weed hook. The hanging box is where you carried the rocks you picked up, your water jug, and lunch.
Roundup – Part 1
When Roundup was first introduced it was something like $60/gallon (a lot of money then) and would kill anything. We got extra long wands for hand spray pumps and that sped up bean walking. Now you only had to spritz a couple leaves on a weed for it to die. If you accidentally spritzed the soybeans, they died too.
A wand 5-6 foot long let you take 6 or 8 rows in one pass of a round. This was a vast improvement. I personally “walked” about 600 acres of soybeans by myself one summer.
There were various half-assed attempts at improving soybean weed control at this time. Lots of different type of “wick” applicators came out.
They were all a tube of some kind filled with Roundup-water mix and then a rope wick between various places where the chemical would come out. The theory was, late in the summer, before the rows closed, your problem weeds would be taller than the beans and you could just brush them with the wick. If you happened to hit a gully or tile hole with your front tire, the wick brush a big patch of beans and they died. You basically had to keep one hand on the hydraulic lever for the loader bucket to control the height and one hand on the steering wheel. Don’t sneeze!
Roundup – Pt 2 – Roundup Ready Soybeans
In 1996 Monsanto introduced genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans. This was a Godsend! They were expensive and so was Roundup, but we now had a chemical that would kill everything except soybeans. Utopia!
Roundup – Pt 3 – Roundup Ready Corn
This should have never been allowed! It was introduced in 1998.
One of the tenets of good land stewardship is crop rotation. Insects that feed on corn roots or other parts of the plant starve to death the next year when soybeans are in the field. We previously never allowed the same chemical to work with both crops so you were always hitting your weeds with something different each year.
Allowing Roundup Ready corn was a complete failure of government regulation and oversight. Nobody looked five years out. The cost of spraying crops with Roundup dropped to about $7/acre once generics came out. Everybody used it. Year after year the weeds got hit with the exact same weed killer. There were (and still are) even unscrupulous chemical applicators who will apply at “half rate.” When you did that late in the season after weeds got bit, it wasn’t enough to kill them.
Guess what? Weeds got resistant. They dropped seeds which contained the resistance trait and just like that Roundup quit working for a lot of people who should not have been farming. Yes, I said that. If you are using the exact same chemical on both crops each year you are creating this problem.
Bigger Guess What?
The group of farmers who suck at land stewardship thanks to following Earl Butz (whether they know it or not) want Dicamba Ready corn and soybeans so they can keep doing the exact same stupid thing. I kid you not city dwellers. These people aren’t getting smarter. Not just my opinion. Weed scientists are saying the same thing. You have to use a different mode of control with each crop.
The only solution here is government regulation.
Strip Liberty and Dicamba resistance traits out of soybeans, leave Roundup in. Wheat will have to follow the soybean trait due to double cropping.
For corn you strip out Roundup Ready and Dicamba resistance.
Never allow the same resistance trait to exist in both corn and soybeans again.
Dicamba becomes what you put in the hand sprayer on your Weber Weeder.
This is what it has to come down to people. The “corporate mentality” of many “family farms” cannot be trusted. If we farm the ground we have to be good stewards of the land. The people claiming they need Dicamba weren’t good stewards. They want a new chemical to let them keep using bad practices.