WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2017 – Considering the problems farmers and applicators – and manufacturers – are experiencing with dicamba this year, one could reasonably wonder whether it makes sense to bet on its future in agriculture.

But Dow AgroSciences says it’s been making a significant investment in developing new low-drift and low-volatility formulation technology for dicamba and other auxin-based herbicides. The website Toxipedia says dicamba mimics the plant hormone auxin, “causing uncontrolled growth which eventually kills plants.” In testing the new formulations, Dow says it’s using Enlist Duo – a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate – and other products on the market as benchmarks.

Melissa Johnson, associate R&D director for Formulation Sciences & Technology, and Roberta Ressler, the company’s Global Actives to Products (A2P) R&D leader, say it’s still early in the process and that they can’t share data at this point.

“The big question is where does the data take us,” Johnson says. “We need to approach the issue with caution.” Dow has no timeline for commercial launch.

But Johnson adds that Dow has “done extensive lab and greenhouse testing that looks promising. We’re in year two of field studies and advanced lab testing now.”

Ressler goes further, saying that “use in real-world applications over the past two years suggests our low-drift and low-volatility formulation technology significantly reduces the potential for off-target movement.”

All auxins, the most prominent being dicamba, but also 2,4-D, have historically been known to pose off-target challenges. Dow feels that its work with Enlist Duo, the herbicide it developed for use with Enlist corn, soybeans and cotton, will help it develop low-drift, low-volatility formulations using dicamba.

“We’re doing more in this space than we ever have before and have invested significantly in novel delivery systems for well over a decade,” Johnson says. She and Ressler say the company is looking broadly at co-formulants and spray nozzles as it tests a wide variety of new products.

"We know that reducing drift and off-target applications are important for our customers and important for our regulators," Ressler says.

With import approval from China granted earlier this year, Dow plans to launch Enlist corn in the U.S. and Canada in the 2018 growing season. (China has yet to grant import approval for Enlist soybeans. Enlist cotton was launched successfully in 2017, Dow said.)