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Update on cotton herbicides in this regulatory environment

Brad Haire georgia-pigweed-cotton-research-plot-with-one-herbicide-a.jpg
The shifting winds around these herbicides, and the regulation of other chemistries, can be hard to follow, but people are talking and sharing ideas and data.

Herbicides U.S. cotton growers use are receiving regulatory and legal attention, a process that has been going on for many years. During the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo Field Day in Moultrie, Ga., Aug. 2, Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist, gave an update on the situation and the actions needed to maintain practical practices for these important farm products.

“It is really alarming. We're looking at the potential, and I stress potential, of walking into 2023 without diuron, without dicamba, or without Cotoran. It's a huge concern for our growers because of the importance of having these tools. We know with just one or two products, we’re not sustainable, right? We need a huge toolbox. We need to be adding to the toolbox, not removing products from that toolbox,” said Culpepper, current president of the Weed Science Society of America.

In late July, the Environmental Protection Agency took comments on both diuron and Cotoran.

“And a lot of us (in the industry) gave some good comments, because our goal is to help regulators better understand what we do. We’re weak in the area of helping them understand what we do on the farm, the challenges we have, the tools we need and understanding that one herbicide application is not sustainable. Two herbicide applications is not sustainable,” he said.

Many in the cotton industry know the legal and regulatory pressure on off-target dicamba applications. “That is influencing decisions, and I still say a judge will ultimately determine the fate of Dicamba. I don't know when that'll happen,” he said.

EPA data suggests diuron may have some cancer challenges, something to take seriously for all, including applicators and consumers, he said, and hopefully there will be a solution to safely keep the chemistry available to growers.

EPA also suggests that Cotoran is a problem for groundwater in certain soil types, he said. Industry partners suggest Cotoran isn’t a problem. He said more research can be done to find a real-world solution for using the chemistry.

The shifting winds around these herbicides, and the regulation of other chemistries, can be hard to follow, but people are talking and sharing ideas and data. “I feel we’ve made great strides. There's no doubt our relationship with EPA now, I think, is as good or better than it's ever been. We need our industry partners, we need our regulators, we need our farmers, and we need our academics to come together. … There's a lot that needs to be done, but those four groups need to come together to work together, or we're not going to survive,” he said.

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