Early Adopters Put Dicamba-Tolerant Soybeans to the Test
November 28, 2016
November 28, 2016 by Chris Bennett
Don’t try to tell Mikey Taylor forbidden fruit tastes best. Farm sins are one ill wind away from exposure, at least when transgressions involve dicamba. In the spring of 2016, Taylor ripped open a chain of sacks filled with dicamba-tolerant soybeans and punched the load into his southeast Arkansas ground. When Taylor broke the century mark, yielding over 100 bu. per acre, he did so in straight-laced fashion, in direct contrast to the dicamba debacle of 2016. Asgrow 47X6 churned out a fine yield on a silt loam field rotated from corn for Taylor in the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green Contest. Producers across the United States, particularly in Arkansas, Mississippi and the Missouri Bootheel, planted large tracts of dicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2016, yet many gave in to temptation, illegally hammering stands with volatile chemicals that blistered the crops of adjoining neighbors. Taylor drew a clear line in his dirt, a boundary of demarcation between right and wrong. He never made any oddly timed May or June purchase of dicamba, and when Palmer stormed particular fields, as he knew it inevitably would, he gritted his teeth and looked toward the next year, hopeful of a label. “The worst part of this dicamba mess is watching my friends get hammered,” Taylor says. “The farmers spraying dicamba illegally aren’t hiding it. They know we’ll find out and just don’t care.”
With EPA’s November approval of XtendiMax (essentially a new dicamba formula), an additional chemical tool is knocking on the door of the 2017 season. How might the new weed weapon affect Taylor’s soybean production?
Taylor is an early adopter, well ahead of the curve on soil fertility and management techniques. As one of the first growers in Arkansas to use a cover-cattle rotation, he is also likely the first in the state to break 100 bu. per acre after planting into a cover crop. (The Arkansas Soybean Association reports Taylor is thought to be the first.) “Howard Buffett believes a 1% increase in organic matter could bring a 10% increase in yield,” Taylor says. “If I can leave my kids with significantly higher organic matter through cover crops, this ground will be so much better when it’s time for them to farm.” True no-till is Taylor’s eventual destination, and his subsoilers are gathering rust, one retired to the shop and the other sitting by the road wearing a sale sign. His contest soybeans were planted on beds, but next season he plans on 100% flats across his farm. He cuts a 5” trench on 60” centers and furrow irrigates alternate rows. “I’ll drill through the cover and run a plow to streak it,” he says. “Next spring I’ll run the planter and run the plow again, and drop a residual behind the planter.” He treated seed with Cruiser and planted at a 145,000 population on 30” rows April 9, punching into a cover of cereal rye, radish and black oats killed two weeks prior with Sharpen. With an odd July, Taylor got 9” of moisture spread across multiple rains in the middle of summer, and only needed to irrigate the soybeans three times. “That was God’s blessing. Let’s be clear: I didn’t make those big yields by myself,” he says. After pod set the stand was erect, had no lodging problems, and appeared promising to crop consultant Ed Whatley. “Mikey got planting in early and matched seed to soil,” Whatley describes. “You throw in his phenomenal fertility, timeliness and emphasis on inputs, and it was the total yield package.”
Just before harvest, Taylor salted the soybeans with a gallon per acre, and began cutting Sept. 15. The yields were outstanding: 101.319 bu. per acre. Considering the fine performance of the dicamba-tolerant soybeans, how much might a new label boost production? “No question, a label would have given me better beans across the board,” Taylor says. “The very worst pigweed field I had on my farm was in dicamba beans and it was so bad we almost didn’t harvest. I’d have gotten major savings if I could have cleaned up those beans.” In 2016, Taylor grew 435 acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans, but plans on boosting the coverage in 2017 to 100% of his acreage. “When you fool with another man’s livelihood, terrible things happen and we’ve seen that with dicamba this year. I’m just looking forward to the legal technology next season and doing things the right way.”