“It burns the roots of trees, killing them”
EXCERPT: “It’s going to be scary,” said [ISU Extension forester Jesse] Randall. “Gone will be all the grapes in the state, because one whiff and they are done. Tomatoes are gone, most of your garden will be gone, our trees will be burned. It’s just not good.”
Iowa State Extension forester warns of dicamba dangers
By Julia Mericle
The Hawk Eye, Oct 9, 2017
Clouds cast gloomy shadows on the 39th annual Shimek State Forest Field Day last week, and ISU Extension forester Jesse Randall’s forest health update could not offer many bright spots.
Perhaps the most dismal piece of news he shared with the over 100 foresters and timber owners present was about dicamba, an herbicide used since the 1960s to fight weeds.
Recently, farmers in the Midwest have begun to plant soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba and the chemical has been marked safe to use on these soybean crops.
Randall said he sees a lot of problems with that.
When sprayed, dicamba becomes airborne and settles on plants that are not resistant to the herbicide. With application occurring later in the growing season when the weather is warmer, Randall said more dicamba will volatilize and fall beyond the protected soybean crops.
Dicamba does not target specific trees or plants, but anything it touches. It will kill neighboring soybean crops that are not resistant. It burns the roots of trees, killing them.
“It’s going to be scary,” said Randall. “Gone will be all the grapes in the state, because one whiff and they are done. Tomatoes are gone, most of your garden will be gone, our trees will be burned. It’s just not good.”
And this herbicide is coming for Iowa, Randall said.
“It’s one of those things where we are a farming state first and everything else is second,” Randall said. “And this one is going to be a game-changer.”
Arkansas, which recently saw much damage from dicamba, became the first state to take action preventing the application of the herbicide between April 16 and October 15, when it spreads the most.
While Randall said he hopes Iowa follows Arkansas’ lead, he does not predict changes will be made quickly enough to stop several years of intense damage to trees.
The herbicide’s use is so risky, some insurance companies refuse to back up commercial spraying of dicamba because of the payouts they anticipate.
When affected by dicamba, different species of trees and plants develop different symptoms. The leaves of the mulberry tree fold up into cup shapes, while the leaves of oak trees curl down the center.
This winter, the ISU Forestry extension will create a public website to track the damage of dicamba and provide images of what the herbicide’s damage looks like on a variety of trees. The website will be available next summer.