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Ubiquitous: Will dicamba beans take off in 2018?

Soybeans hit with dicamba damage have "cupped" and "blistered" leaves, and reduced production from blossoms that die on top, and blossoms that produce two pods instead of three. Photo taken Aug. 14, 2017, near Harwood, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — There will be a significant increase in dicamba-soybean production in 2018, says a North Dakota State University Extension Service economist who wonders if that was the strategy from the start.

"The farmers I talk to are almost all going to grow dicamba soybeans this year because they don't want to be exposed to the risk," said David Ripplinger, an NDSU assistant professor of agricultural economics and bioenergy and bioproducts economist, speaking in a recent Farm and Ranch Economic Summit in Bismarck, hosted by the NDSU Extension Service and the North Dakota Farmers Union. "I'm hesitant to think that someone in St. Louis (the home of Monsanto) did not think of this."

Monsanto, BASF and Dupont all came out with dicamba-resistant soybeans in 2017. Farmers in the Upper Midwest saw widespread leaf cupping of non-dicamba beans that were highly sensitive to the chemical, but August rains made losses hard to quantify. The situation led to changes in state labels for the chemical in 2018.

Robert Fraley, Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer, who has spoken in Fargo several times on the technology, did not immediately return phone inquiries to comment on Ripplinger's theory.

Ripplinger thinks dicamba beans will "become nearly ubiquitous, absolutely" in 2018 and said it seems possible that that was the strategy.

"What we're hearing is that most producers are interested in producing dicamba soybeans, not necessarily because of the inherent benefits of dicamba, but to protect against dicamba drift," he said.

With the "extremely high adoption" rate it's "almost logical to think that this is a natural result of introducing this technology, where the easiest risk management for non-dicamba producers initially is to adopt it and avoid that risk," he said.

Many of the developers and promoters of the technologies were "very thoughtful and forward-thinking" and "realized that if you introduce a technology where you can impose losses to your neighbor — but not yourself, at least in the short term — you're going to create a strategic gain where your technology is going to take over all of these acres very quickly. I think it was very thoughtful on behalf of the 'culprits,' depending on what side of the table you're sitting," he said.

BASF is holding special training for farmers and others to help avoid drift losses in North Dakota and surrounding states. The training is being overseen by the NDSU Extension Service in North Dakota.

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