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Volunteers and staff with Audubon Arkansas will return to farm country this summer to search for possible dicamba damage to trees and other vegetation on public property, the conservation group announced Monday.

The state’s ban on in-crop use of the herbicide took effect May 26.

“This is not about the farmers,” said Dan Scheiman, the group’s bird conservation director, said Monday. “This is about a herbicide that never should have been approved in the first place.”

More than 40 complaints of dicamba damage have been received this year, 24 of those filed with the state Plant Board since the ban took effect. The board is a division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

The board has received some 1,400 such complaints since 2016, mostly about damage to soybean and cotton varieties not tolerant of the herbicide. Fruits, vegetables and ornamental trees and shrubs also are susceptible to dicamba.

Those complaints have led the Plant Board to set cutoff dates on using the herbicide over the top of soybeans and cotton genetically modified to be dicamba-tolerant. The new seed and new formulations of dicamba were developed as weeds grew resistant to glyphosate, or Roundup.

Scheiman said this year’s effort will mirror last year’s, which has been criticized by some farmers as being the work of “outsiders.”

One east Arkansas farmer posted at least one flyer at a farm-supply store last year offering a “reward” for information on those who file complaints. The farmer said later that he didn’t have the Audubon Arkansas project in mind when he posted the flyer and that he was joking about a reward.

“We don’t want our people going on private property,” Scheiman said. Volunteers will receive training on signs of dicamba symptomology and will use global positioning devices to chart where they find possible damage, Scheiman said.

Audubon Arkansas said its staff and volunteers last year made 243 observations of apparent dicamba symptomology on a variety of plants across 17 eastern Arkansas counties from June through August.

Plants affected include sycamore, oak, redbud, muscadine, trumpet vine, and tulip tree, all on public lands such as university research farms, wildlife management areas, city parks, cemeteries, and county and state roads, the group said.

“If anybody sees herbicide damage on their own property, I encourage them to report that to the Plant Board,” Scheiman said. “Even if it’s not determined where the damage came from, it’s important to have statistics showing it’s a problem.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had approved in-crop dicamba formulations only through the end of this crop season as it considers the herbicide’s future. A federal court earlier this month vacated the EPA registration of three of those formulations made by Bayer, BASF and Corteva and ordered a halt of their sale.

The EPA is allowing farmers to use existing stocks of the herbicide, a decision upheld last week by the same court.

The Arkansas ban has exemptions for dicamba’s use around the home, in forests and on pastureland. Some Arkansas farmers who have fields inside Mississippi River levees, where they abut Tennessee fields with fewer dicamba restrictions, can apply for special state permits to spray.

Print Headline: Group looking for dicamba damage

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