Mississippi agency clarifies rules on spring aerial applications The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has assured Mississippi growers and aerial applicators that the agency is not totally banning aerial applications of glyphosate, sulfosate or paraquat herbicides between March 14 and May 1.

"There is a good bit of confusion around the state," said Keith Davis with MDAC. "People think the new restrictions are a total ban on aerial application and they're not. The application of the products can and will be allowed to occur in the 2001 growing season."

In a series of news releases and letters to aerial applicators sent out in January, the Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry stated that it will require supplemental labeling for the 2001 growing season that "prohibits the aerial application of glyphosate, sulfosate or paraquat between March 14 and May 1."

According to the department, the restrictions are to prevent off-target drift and do not apply to applications made with ground equipment. All products labeled for preplant burndown application, which contain the active ingredients of glyphosate, sulfosate, or paraquat, are required to conform with the restrictions.

Many growers and applicators took the statement to mean that aerial applications are no longer allowed.

But the release also stated that exemptions may be granted based upon site-specific emergency needs "when access to a particular field site by ground application equipment is not a reasonable option."

The exemption procedure is designed to provide farmers and aerial applicators with some flexibility, according to Davis.

Aerial applicator Jack Shannon of Clarksdale, Miss., was concerned for his no-till rice customers, who will be burning down for planting in March and early April. If they went with a ground application of a burndown material in wet conditions, the result likely would be rutted fields.

According to Davis, that would constitute a situation where ground application is not a reasonable option. "A lot of growers get those rice fields ready early and putting a large vehicle in that field would just tear it all to pieces.

"You can't ask a rice farmer to go in his field and start all over again," Davis said. "He doesn't have time to do that. We'll permit aerial application of the product."

In order to receive an emergency exemption, contact the Bureau of Plant Industry (888-257-1285) or its local field inspector for emergency verification. After emergency verification, the producer and/or aerial applicator will be issued a permit to perform the needed applications.

The permit will indicate the location (i.e., field, farm, section number, etc.) and a reasonable timeframe in which to perform the work. The permit will be valid for the site prescribed and for the time period indicated, only. (For a complete list of exemption requirements, see box).

Under the exemption, no aerial applications can be made when wind velocity exceeds 5 mph or when climatic conditions exist which create atmospheric inversions. Exempted aerial applicators must have these individual supplemental labels in their possession when applying these specific products. Copies of these labels should be provided by the dealer or distributor. Copies will also be available from the bureau's Website (www.mdac.state.ms.us).

Davis stressed that the Bureau of Plant Industry, the agency responsible for enforcing the restrictions, "will move very quickly" in response to farmer requests for exemptions. We're taking steps now to beef up our staff for these areas during that time of the year.

"If it's an extremely wet spring, we may opt to certify large blocks of land versus a farm-by-farm situation. And sometimes, we may be able to make a judgment by telephone versus an on-site visit. We'll generate the paperwork, fax it to the applicator and he'll have his paperwork in hand."

State Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell took the action "after receiving many complaints this past year of injury to off-target crops and private property," Spell said.

"The action is being taken after careful consideration," Spell said. "We will work with farmers and applicators to insure that all needed applications of these products can be made within the conditions provided on the label. Every effort will be made to insure the farmer successfully completes his planting. However, we are committed to preventing misuse by applicators. If we do not take action now, these important products may not be available to us in the future."

In the six-week time frame in 2000, the plant board investigated 98 complaints, most of which involved the off-target movement of glyphosate. The rest of year, they investigated another 48, for a total of 146.

Calls came in from farmers, homeowners and even applicators requesting action, according to Davis. But most of the complaints came from corn producers.

"In 2000, we had the earliest-planted corn crop that we've ever had," Davis said. "Even if you make an glyphosate application within the wind speed guidelines and it's blowing toward corn, corn is very susceptible to glyphosate. You pick up symptomatology in the corn before you see it in the weeds around the field."

The restriction will be in effect in 19 Mississippi counties: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, Desoto, Grenada, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Yazoo. These counties were where most reported incidents occurred, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Aerial applications of herbicides containing glyphosate, sulfosate, and paraquat shall not be made in the counties listed below from March 15 through April 30. However, aerial applications of these products can occur under emergency conditions. The following conditions must be met before applications using aerial equipment can be made.

(1) An emergency condition exists thereby preventing application of preplant burn down herbicides by ground equipment.

(2) Prior approval from an authorized employee of the Bureau of Plant Industry has been granted.

(3) Wind velocity and direction are to be determined at the site of application before the application can be made.

(4) Applications are prohibited when wind velocity exceeds 5 mph at the site of application.

The Mississippi Delta Counties of Desoto, Tunica, Tate, Panola, Quitman, Coahoma, Bolivar, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Grenada, Carroll, Leflore, Washington, Humphreys, Holmes, Yazoo, Sharkey, Issaquena, Warren are affected.

This is not a total prohibition of the aerial application of these products.

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