Dicamba herbicides have registration axed by U.S. court

At least three out of four dicamba-containing herbicides have had U.S. registrations pulled effective immediately. The current registrations for Engenia, FeXapan, and XtendiMax were set to expire in December of this year after being extended once.

The recent U.S. Court of Appeal ruling put an end to the sale of dicamba herbicides for the 2020 growing season.

In the ruling, the court says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “substantially understated risks that it acknowledged” during the approval process for in-crop applications of the herbicide.

Dicamba is not a new chemistry, first registered in the late 1960s. Prior to the introduction of the dicamba-tolerant trait in corn, soybean, and other crops, the herbicide was largely used in pre-seed or post-harvest applications, and therefore used at a time when off-target drift would have minimal impact. In-crop use, however, creates a much higher risk of drift issues if dicamba is not applied properly, with the correct nozzles and water volumes, and during appropriate weather conditions.

XtendiMax is a Bayer product. Engenia is produced by BASF, and FeXapan is a Corteva product.

“We strongly disagree with the ruling and are assessing our options. If the ruling stands, we will work quickly to minimize any impact on our customers this season. Our top priority is making sure our customers have the support they need to have a successful season,” Bayer says in a statement to RealAgriculture.

The EPA conducted an extensive review and considered all relevant science prior to issuing the current registration for XtendiMax. In October 2018, the EPA extended the registration of XtendiMax and stated that: ‘This action was informed by input from and extensive collaboration between EPA, state regulators, growers, academic researchers, pesticide manufacturers, and other stakeholders. EPA understands that dicamba is a valuable pest control tool for America’s growers.’

The EPA’s informed science-based decision reaffirms that this tool is vital for growers and does not pose any unreasonable risks of off-target movement when used according to label directions.

“Bayer stands fully behind our XtendiMax product. We are proud of our role in bringing innovations like XtendiMax forward to help growers safely, successfully, and sustainably protect their crops from weeds. We will continue working with the EPA, growers, academics, and others to maintain long-term access to this important tool.” stated Bayer.

Since its in-crop registration, crop damage and drift claims have created significant friction between farmers in both the U.S. and Canada.

Farmers in the U.S. have likely already planted dicamba-tolerant crops, including soybeans and cotton. Many may already have the named herbicides on-hand. It’s unclear as to whether or not any over-the-top dicamba application will be permitted at all.

Bayer has launched a webpage for updated information as this situation unfolds.

The ruling creates incredible uncertainty for hybrid and variety development and seed multiplication, as several new lines already have the dicamba-tolerant trait worked in.

At this time, the recent court ruling in the U.S. has no impact on Canada’s use or registration of XtendiMax herbicide, says a spokesperson for BayerCropScience Canada.

“We stand behind the safety of our products, including dicamba, which is an important herbicide for Canadian farmers. In January, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) initiated a targeted special review of dicamba with multiple Canadian registrants. This review is focused on over- the-top (OTT) applications and non-target terrestrial plants. Reviews such as this one are standard practice, and Bayer will comply with the PMRA’s request and throughout the review process. We believe Canada has one of the safest pest management regulatory systems in the world, and we support PMRA processes,” Bayer says.

Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) confirms that the U.S. ruling does not impact the registration of these products in Canada. “Health Canada follows a rigorous, science-based process when making decisions about the safety of pesticides. The Department monitors for new scientific information and will take appropriate action if risks to human health or the environment are identified,” says PMRA.

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