Tools of the Trade: Dicamba spring ’18 update

As the weather warms, soybean fields are being planted, and the focus on weed control increases. One of the new tools, dicamba for dicamba-tolerant soybeans, continues to evolve. The products really have not changed, but the information concerning proper utilization continues to be updated. 

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minnesota buffer

MN Court of Appeals deals blow to attempt to add miles of water to buffer map

An opinion in another court case involving the buffer law was recently released. This time, an environmental group seeking to make the buffer map as extensive as possible was challenging the determination of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) when it removed miles of waterways from the buffer maps.

The order was issued by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on April 23 in a case brought by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA). The decision was In the Matter of the Improper Inclusion of Certain Water Courses within Public Waters Inventory Maps for 71 Counties, A17-0904. Judge Peterson wrote the unpublished decision for the three judge panel that had heard the case. MCEA challenged an order of the DNR regarding the public waters inventory (PWI) and the maps used in the 2015 Buffer Law.

The Court detailed the history of the PWI. In 1979, the legislature directed the commissioner of the DNR to create the inventory.  The legislature defined terms for the DNR and also set forth specific procedures to be followed in creating the inventory. The court noted that during the original PWI process, “…approximately 640 miles of watercourses that fit the definition of public waters were designated on the PWI maps as public ditches.” On the maps that were created, these 640 miles were marked with a hybrid of the public waters designation (a bold black line) and the public ditch designation (a dashed line).  This bold black dashed line represented these waters that were both a public water under statute and also public ditches. The ditches, “…were assumed to be under the authority of the public drainage authorities.” 

The PWI came up again at the legislature in 2015 when the buffer bill was being debated and passed into law. In 2017, the buffer legislation was amended and the buffer–zone defined “public waters” as waters that were on the PWI as it was created after the 1979 direction of the legislature.

While the DNR was in the process of creating the buffer zone maps, “…the DNR noticed that the watercourses with dual designation on the PWI maps had not been included on the PWI lists.”  Recognizing this, the DNR commissioner believed that landowners along these dual designation waters may not have received notice that their land was along a public water because the waters were not on the PWI lists.

Minnesota Statutes §103G.201 (e)(2)(i) gives the commissioner of the DNR the ability to revise the PWI to correct errors in the original inventory. In March 2017, the DNR began to review, “… how to convert watercourses improperly labeled as public ditches to watercourses designated as public waters.”  The DNR concluded that about 670 miles should be removed from the PWI due to the lack of notification to affected landowners during the 1979 PWI creation. The court found that “…[a]ll of the actions surrounding the removal of the watercourses were taken within the DNR; persons and entities were notified of the DNR’s actions only after the commissioner signed the order.”  There were no public meetings, no hearings and no public comment period on the order.

MCEA requested the DNR revoke the order it issued and give them a chance to comment on why the 670 miles should be left on the buffer maps. The DNR denied this request on June 8, 2017, and MCEA challenged the DNR’s decision by a writ of certiorari. The court had the parties submit briefs on the issue of whether or not the actions of MCEA were properly before the court. 

In its decision the court cited another case involving MCEA in which the court stated that, “’certiorari is an extraordinary remedy only available to review judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and actions; conversely, it is not available to review legislative or administrative actions.’  Minn. Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Metro. Council, 587 N.W. 2d 838, 842 (Minn. 1999).”

MCEA attempted to argue that this was not merely an exercise of administrative function because part of what the DNR considered were comments or complaints of landowners regarding the PWI.  The court found that this opposition to the PWI did not convert it into a quasi-judicial process.  The court dismissed the appeal due to lack of jurisdiction over the challenge. 

At the center of the MCEA’s complaint on the DNR’s action was that they felt that they were denied their rights of due process when they did not receive an opportunity to comment on the commissioners order. The ironic aspect of this challenge by MCEA is that a lack of due process is exactly what the DNR was attempting to correct when it issued its order. By not giving notice to the affected landowners in 1979, putting their waterways on the PWI maps with a separate designation from public waters, and by not putting the waters on the PWI list, the DNR had violated the landowners due process rights in 1979.  As the court stated, “…the landowners may have failed to object to the original designation of these watercourses as public waters.”

This determination by the DNR was the right decision, but is only half of the story. In 1979, the PWI had no consequence for landowners.  The state law requiring buffers on these PWI waters came into existence 36 years later. While counties may have put in ordinances, and zoning rules put buffers in place in theory, there was no consequence of a water being included in the PWI to your land in 1979. There was little reason for an individual to challenge a PWI determination in 1979.

Had landowners known that nearly four decades later a 50-foot buffer would be required, you probably would have had more challenges.  Many of the landowners facing the loss of acreage on their farms had no meaningful participation in the 1979 creation of the PWI. The due process rights of all of these landowners was ignored in the creation of the buffers by the legislature and the DNR when considering challenges to the PWI maps.

Hopefully, as we work our way through the buffer law implementation, property owners rights will be meaningfully considered by the legislature, agencies and courts.

soybean partnership

Tools of the Trade: A game of risk

Sometimes I like to watch poker on TV, especially Texas Hold’em. The players are playing against the unknown.  You have your two cards; only you know what they are. You have the three community cards, and then slowly two more cards revealed. Actions, hold, raise, fold or go all in, happen at each flip of a card. There you are wondering: what are the other players holding? Are the cards in a player’s hand enough, when paired with the community, to win?  When is the best time to fold? Do you bet the farm and go all in?

Sounds a bit like farming. You read the paper, cruise the internet and get all your information. The reports update the global supply on hand. You estimate what the demand will be come November. You estimate the soybean yield on your place, your county, your state. Each time, more information becomes available about the crop, contract prices change. A card flipped, an action happens, the price changes. Read more

Tools of the Trade: 2018 predictions for the Drought Monitor

Spring is on its way, planters are being prepared, seed is starting to arrive and some planting decisions, such as variety selection, have already been made. We are all ready to get started, or for the snow to melt at the very least.

Time to look at the weather.

I frequently look at the Drought Monitor to see the weather forecasts. Currently, (Feb 13 forecast) about 26 percent of Minnesota is in dry-to- moderate drought status – mostly in the west, with the central west region being the largest area. The remainder of the state is within normal range, possibly a bit above normal. Read more


Tools of the Trade: Managing RR canola, glyphosate resistance and scouring rush

Kris Folland, an MSR&PC director from Kittson County, contacted me last growing season with a few problem weeds found in soybean fields in his native northwest Minnesota. 

The common trait, glyphosate (Roundup) was not controlling the problem. For each, the number of post emergent (POST) control options is limited. 

So the question becomes: what are your options?

Volunteer Roundup Ready Canola: Canola is both a crop and weed. It fits the old definition of weed; a plant out of place. Canola, like soybeans, is grown for oil and meal production, and is an annual broadleaf crop and has similar herbicide sensitivities as soybeans.  

“Volunteer RR canola is in many fields spread from fertilizer, wildlife, wind, etc.,” Kris says. “Most of it is in fields where canola has never been grown. Post spray includes flexstar, raptor, and similar chemicals. Low rates of each prior to soybeans flowering. Crop oil seems to help. Research on chemical control and affect on soybean yield are needed. The beans always turn yellow after spraying rates of flexstar as low as 3-6oz. It does not appear to affect yield though.”

Recently, canola has been found invading soybean fields that have not included canola in the rotation.  It is thought canola was introduced as a contaminate of bulk fertilizer shipped from Canada. Most of the over-the-top material that will kill canola will damage/kill soybeans.  It is far easier to practice prevention (crop rotation, pre-emergent herbicides, etc.) than to rescue the soybean crop.  This is an instance when alternative GMO crops (Liberty Link, Dicamba tolerant or 2, 4-D tolerant soybeans) may shine.                             

David Kee, Minnesota Soybean director of research

According to this website, the best management practices for volunteer Canola are to reduce canola harvest loss, use no-till or delayed tillage after canola harvest, plant competitive rotational crops (wheat, corn, etc.) where diverse herbicide sites of action can be used, remove volunteer canola early with pre-plant burndown herbicides, PRE residual herbicides and early POST herbicides, control canola before it reaches the 4 leaf growth stage.

If you are following canola with conventional or Roundup Ready soybeans, use 2,4D LVE or saflufenacil as a burndown, use a burndown with a PRE (2,4-D LVE + flumioxazin or saflufenacil + imazethapyr)  Imazamox is the POST option, but is only effective for volunteer canola at less than the 4 leaf growth stage.  Once volunteer canola is past the 4 leaf stage, mechanical control and hand weeding become the primary option for conventional or Roundup Ready soybeans.

Glyphosate Resistant Marestail: Marestail (Conyza Canadensis), aka horseweed or Canada fleabane, is an annual broadleaf plant, native to much of North America, frequently found in waste areas, fence rows and fallow cropland.  Like waterhemp, this weed can germinate over a long window, is a prolific seed producer and biotypes have become resistant to a number of herbicides.  Marestail population increase is associated with increased no-till acreage over time.

As an annual broadleaf, once established, marestail is difficult to control in soybeans.  If glyphosate resistant marestail is known to exist, rotating to a grass crop (wheat, corn, etc.) will allow more control options.  Also, as with volunteer canola, use of a glufosinate, 2,4-D or dicamba tolerant soybean variety may show immediate results. 

Similar to control of volunteer canola, tillage can be helpful. BMT’s for marestail are used as a herbicide application for emerged plants in the fall, or early spring, to reduce heavy populations (additional applications may be required closer to planting).  Use a spring burndown, including a residual herbicide, to control <4 inch tall marestail to prepare a clean seedbed.  Always use full labeled rates of herbicides for all (PRE and POST) herbicide applications to control herbicide resistant weeds such as marestail.  Use multiple modes of action in all areas, especially in areas with known herbicide resistant marestail.  Include a POST program to control escapes.  Rotate crops and include tillage in your program to reduce heavy marestail infestations.  Consult product labels for precautions and cropping restrictions to manage carryover crop damage. 

Scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale): is a perennial weed commonly found in wetter areas of a no-till field.  This plant is more closely related to ferns than it is to a rush.  It can spread by roots (rhizomes) and spores.  Once established, it forms a dense, extremely competitive sod that tolerates high moisture levels and limits herbicide effectiveness.  The absence of leaves (reducing surface area), the thick cuticle and the accumulation of high concentrations of silica on its surface makes it nearly completely tolerant to herbicides.  Once established, this weed can be tough to control.

In noncropland area, repeated mowing and/or tillage has been used to control Scouring rush.  However, no scientific literature has been found to document the intensity required for effective control.  It appears the area should be mowed or tilled whenever new growth is evident to deplete the carbohydrate reserves in the roots.  This process should be repeated until no growth is evident. 

Herbicide options are available, but knowledge of efficacy is limited.  MCPA has been reported to suppress scouring rush, but the plant will not be found on the label.  Chlorsulfuron, halosulfuron dicholbenil and triclopyr, all labeled for non-cropland use, have also been reported to be active on it.  Foliar applied glyphosate has been found to be ineffective; however a research project has shown injection of concentrated (41 percent) glyphosate directly into the root was very effective in controlling scouring rush, albeit extremely labor intensive.

In cropland, tillage will prevent establishment of scouring rush, however, light tillage, much like with nutsedge, will actually spread the rhizomes creating a bigger problem.  Flumetsulam has been shown to have fair to good control.  Be sure to check the label as not all products containing flumetsulam are labeled for use in soybeans.

Scouring rush, while not an overly competitive weed, is resistant to control. Persistence is required. 

For all three weed species, prevention is by far and away the most profitable option.

damaged soybeans

Tools of the Trade: dicamba confusion

One question I was asked recently had to do with Restricted Use Products (RUP) and dicamba. In Minnesota, Fexapan, Engenia and XtendiMax are currently the only restricted use dicamba products in the state. The RUP designation requires the applicators to be certified; i.e. possess either a private applicators certification or a commercial/noncommercial pesticide applicators license. After the individual has become a certified applicator, they should attend the mandatory dicamba training. Currently, the dicamba trainings will be requesting your license or certification number to ensure the training is properly credited to the correct individual. Read more


Tools of the Trade: Dicamba and chemical trespass

Chemical trespass, the unwanted movement of a chemical onto neighboring property, will be a growing concern in agriculture during 2018.  The launch of dicamba products designed specifically for dicamba tolerant soybeans demonstrated just how major the problem can be. After all the discussions, one common message was heard from all parties: If we are going to keep these tools, there had better not be a repeat of 2017. Read more

soybean seed treatments

Tools of the Trade: Seed treatment results

Fall is in the air, the leaves are dropping and seed agronomists are making the rounds, asking what problems you had last year, what varieties are available to overcome those problems and which seed treatments you need to use.

Therein lies the problem: what do farmers need? There are multiple studies available, most say one thing, and others say another. What do the Minnesota Soybean funded projects indicate? Well, they indicate a lot of variation exists across locations.

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news tips

Tools of the Trade: Know your nodes

I recently had a conversation with Mike Youngerberg, Minnesota Soybean’s senior director of product development & commercialization, about a young farmer who has been scouting his fields for aphids. Threshold levels have not been reached but his neighbors on three sides have all sprayed for aphids.  He was concerned, and questioned if should he also spray. 

After looking at the calendar, I asked him, “What growth stage are your beans?” 

His response was direct. “Growth stage? Why should I worry about growth stage?” 

It’s August. Pods should be developing and seed is filling. The current recommended threshold of 250 aphids per plant on 80 percent of the aphid population only applies up to growth stage 5.5. A more mature soybean field is likely not to be economically affected by aphids. This brings up a common problem faced by growers this time of year: location of scouting.

The soybean plant has a wonderful ability to produce both vegetative and reproductive growth, simultaneously, throughout much of its life.  As you monitor the growth stages, the focus is in the upper 4 nodes from R4 through R6. However, one must remember the bulk of your yield is in the lower nodes. Sacrificing beans in the bottom nodes to make pods in the upper nodes is a money-losing proposition. 

In this link, written by Iowa State Extension, notice the development and timing of vegetative growth, flowering, pod development and seed filling.  

Growth Stage                Condition

R4                                        at least one ¾ inch long pod found in upper four nodes

R5                                        at least one 1/8 long seed found in a pod in upper four nodes

R6                                        at least one filled pod found in upper four nodes

R7                                        One mature pod found anywhere on plant

Time spent at each growth stage varies with environmental condition. To be effective at aphid scouting, growth stage must be evaluated while monitoring/counting aphids. The decision process is confounded with the scouting focused at the top of the crop, while yield is immensely affected by the size of the beans at the bottom of the plant. The decision is also confounded by the movement of aphids within the plant. As the plant growth rate decreases, and the vegetation in the upper four nodes becomes less desirable, the aphids tend to move down the plant and attack the filled pods in the bottom of the plant.

Current University of Minnesota Extension recommendations are to scout weekly through growth stage R5, use the economic threshold of an average of 250 aphids/plant and more than 80 percent of plants having aphids and aphid populations increasing. While an economic threshold has not been developed for R6, infestations in early R6 may require treatment if aphid populations are very large and plants are experiencing other stresses. Aphid insecticide applications are not recommended at, or after, growth stage R7. 

What does all this mean? Well, in my book, it means concentrate on making beans. This means knowing where your crop is, physiologically. Once you do that, open the calendar, polish off the crystal ball and ask yourself, “Is there enough time between now and harvest to make more beans?” It is the middle of August; will an insecticide application save enough beans to pay for the effort? Most of the bean fields I have examined during the last week would require the insecticide to be flown on, making this an even more expensive proposition. At $9.25/bushel (CBOT), you won’t have a lot of margin. Choose wisely.

At the end of the day, you gotta know your nodes!

David Kee is the director of research at Minnesota Soybean and can be reached at 507-388-1635 or

Grower-Researcher Retreat receives rave reviews

For the second annual Minnesota Soybean Grower-Researcher Retreat, David Kee wanted to try a different format. Last year, the farmers sat at round tables while the researchers moved throughout the room. 

This year, Kee, Minnesota Soybean’s director of research, flipped the script. The farmers would come to the researchers.  

“Farmers like to move around,” Kee says. “We want the growers talking to the researchers about problems and solutions. The whole goal of this retreat is to generate conversation long-term, take a good idea, run with it and make a better idea.” 

About 70 growers and researchers from around the Midwest made the trek to Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake for a two-day discussion on the state of soybean production and research. Topics ranged from weed management to plant breeding, agronomy and environmental issues.

The growers switched tables every 30 minutes, spurring lively and eclectic dialogue with University of Minnesota Extension, funded graduate students and industry partners.

MSR&PC Secretary Pat Sullivan says he found the conversations beneficial and informative. 

“I really enjoyed talking to the researchers and industry folks,” he says. “There were healthy, one-on-one exchanges that went to a lot of varied places. I think everyone who participated can take something away from this conference.” 

Dr. Bob Koch, a University of Minnesota entomologist, praised the ideas and thoughts the growers brought to the conversations. 

“There was really robust dialogue in a very relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “There was a lot of outside-the-box thinking, and I think everyone from the University really enjoyed this; there was a lot of back-and-forth educating. Hats off to Minnesota Soybean for another top-notch event.” 

MSR&PC Director Kris Folland hopes the retreat will become a marquee summer event for farmer leaders. 

“I think we’ve really created an environment where it’s a casual yet intellectual meeting,” Folland says. “It really brings all the players to the table, from production to public policy. Honestly, I can’t wait for next year.”