Desiccant dilemma: to use or not to use

Heat from BASF is now registered as a harvest aid/desiccant on lentils, field peas, dry beans and soybeans, but producers are advised not to use it. It’s a classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

BASF says it is in the final stages of establishing maximum residue limits on Heat with importing nations around the world.

The company says this is progressing well in many areas, but “certain regulatory agencies in overseas jurisdictions will not have completed their review of this data.”

BASF says it does not recommend the use of Heat as a harvest aid/desiccant on these crops for the 2012 application season.

The company notes that Heat can be used for this purpose on sunflowers for the 2012 application season.

Many growers will be tempted to use it. The long-standing product for this use is Reglone, which offers quick desiccation results, but doesn’t help control perennial weeds for the following year.

Glyphosate applied pre-harvest is a great tool for perennial weed control, but it isn’t a crop desiccant. The crop dries down slowly after a glyphosate application and that can lead to harvest losses, particularly if the weather doesn’t co-operate.

Mixing Heat with glyphosate combines the benefits of perennial weed control with crop desiccation. The crop doesn’t dry down as fast as with Reglone, but it’s better than glyphosate alone.

On top of this, the Heat/glyphosate mix is considerably cheaper than Reglone and can be applied with fewer gallons per acre of water.

Many growers are already familiar with the use of Heat with glyphosate since the tank mix is increasingly popular as a pre-seeding application.

Heat boosts the speed of weed control, expands the list of weeds controlled and provides another mode of action to guard against herbicide resistance.

Farmers have been waiting to use it pre-harvest. Now, they can, but they’re being advised not to.

There’s no doubt that MRLs can cause trade issues. Last year at this time, the issue was glyphosate residue in lentils going to Europe. Producers were advised that pre-harvest use of glyphosate could exclude lentils from the European market.

The price might end up lower on those lentils. It might be difficult to sell them.

The European MRL for glyphosate on lentils has only recently been raised, but the lentil market did not seem to be affected. There were few if any ramifications for producers who used glyphosate pre-harvest in 2011.

What will happen this year with Heat?

For its part, BASF is taking the safe route by advising against its use. But it is legal to use.

Should you be a boy scout and for the sake of your farm and the entire industry avoid Heat this fall in case it becomes a trade issue? Or should you damn the torpedoes and use the product that gives you the maximum agronomic and economic advantage?

It’s not a health issue and there’s every indication that sensible MRLs will eventually be established with all our main trading partners.

But there is a possibility that your product could be disadvantaged in the marketplace.

Place your bets.

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