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The state Plant Board voted unanimously on Friday to approve an emergency rule allowing the use of a new herbicide, Enlist One by Dow AgroSciences, on crops this growing season.

The board endorsed the same measure in December but as a permanent rule, which requires a 30-day comment period, a public hearing and review by the governor and legislators. That process would have delayed farmers' access to the herbicide until July 1, deep into the growing season.

Approved without debate, the emergency rule will take effect immediately after it is filed with the secretary of state's office and will ensure the herbicide's availability to farmers who plant corn, cotton and soybeans that are tolerant of 2,4-D.

Danny Finch of Jonesboro, a board member appointed by the governor to represent cotton farmers, initially opposed the go-ahead for Enlist One because of 2,4-D's threat to other crops but voted for it on Friday. "I'm for new technology, but I did have concerns," Finch said after the vote.

Talking with weed scientists and Plant Board colleagues eased those concerns. "It won't saturate the atmosphere like dicamba did last year," Finch said, comparing widespread use of dicamba herbicide across hundreds of thousands of acres of soybeans with the smaller market for the Enlist crops.

The board last year received nearly 1,000 complaints of damage caused by dicamba, resulting in a midsummer emergency ban on dicamba's use and, eventually, a decision to prohibit in-crop use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31.

"I think it's a good rule and a lot of farmers will welcome it," Bill Robertson, a cotton agronomist with the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division, said by telephone after the board's decision.

Arkansas farmers last year planted 438,000 acres of cotton, up from 375,000 acres in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also saw record yields -- 1,205 pounds per acre, compared with 1,075 pounds per acre in 2016. About 15,000 acres were of the Enlist variety.

"We might see 500,000 acres [of cotton] this year," with possibly 20 percent of that acreage being planted in the Enlist variety, Robertson said.

While other varieties of cotton and soybeans are susceptible to 2,4-D, university weed scientists told the Plant Board in December they have studied the Enlist products for four or five years and found them to to be effective against weeds now resistant to other herbicides and less apt to move off target.

"We haven't seen any unexplained volatility," Jason Norsworthy, a weed scientist, told the board then, referring to some herbicides' tendencies to lift off sprayed plants as a vapor and move to other crops.

Enlist One now joins Enlist Duo in Arkansas. Enlist Duo, a blend of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate, more commonly known as Roundup, was used in the state for the first time last year. Enlist One is a single-ingredient 2,4-D-choline that can be tank-mixed with other herbicides. Both have an additive, called Colex-D by the company, to make it less susceptible to off-target movement.

"Physical drift is something we still have to worry about, but it's also something we can control," Robertson said. "Volatilization is outside of our control."

Robertson noted that the Enlist products are under restricted-use permits, which require applicators go through training and be licensed.

The Agriculture Division is providing online training sessions, and Dow also is holding training sessions with farmers across the state.

Farmers who sign contracts with Dow to plant Enlist crops will see those contracts canceled by the company if they use unauthorized 2,4-D products, a Dow representative told the Plant Board last year.

Those farmers also will be subject to fines of up to $25,000 for egregious violations of Arkansas pesticide law, the board said.

The 30-day period for public comments on the permanent rule allowing Enlist One in Arkansas ends on March 4. As of Friday morning, no comments had been received by the board.

A public hearing on the Enlist label originally set for March 8 in Little Rock has been canceled but will be rescheduled.

Business on 02/24/2018

Print Headline: Board's vote clears Enlist herbicide

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