In 2008 I had complaints about glyphosate drift on rice than I have had since starting with the Extension service back in 2002. I believe several factors led to this.

For one, we have undergone a steep learning curve the past few years of the dangers of spraying Roundup too close to rice.

In addition, the Arkansas State Plant Board implemented an “iron clad” 10 mph wind speed limit for all glyphosate applications. This took all the guess work out of whether or not a fine could be issued for spaying when the wind was blowing too hard.

Finally, the Extension Service and the State Plant Board have had educational programs about spray drift, increasing awareness of the dangers. Our program is called “Keep it in the Field.”

There were a few exceptions. I am aware of complaints of glyphosate drift to rice that remain unresolved. This is unfortunate for those involved, but overall, complaints were down.

We are probably going to have to accept that each year we will have a number of complaints of glyphosate drift to rice.

I also expect a certain number of complaints of ALS herbicide drift on soybeans from rice fields with products like Permit, Regiment, Strada, Grasp and Londax. Like glyphosate, these products are not prone to drift, but when you spray 1.4 million acres of rice surrounded by soybeans, occasionally the odds catch up to you and drift will occur.

This is the case with rice for sure. We grow rice, which is not Roundup Ready, next to over 6 million acres of soybeans, cotton and corn that are Roundup Ready. If we can keep the complaints down to fewer than 20, we are probably doing real well.

It is hard to say if we were there this year or not. Not all complaints are reported to the Extension Service or the State Plant Board. Often they are settled on the turn-row and not reported. My point, however, is that until all crops are tolerant to the same herbicides, drift will continue to be a problem to some degree.

Drift issues are going to continue to get more complex. Right now we deal with two kinds of rice — conventional rice and Clearfield rice. They look the same, but are quite different in terms of ability to tolerate Newpath herbicide.

In soybeans, I am hearing that quite a few farmers are switching back to conventional soybeans this year. Those beans will look just like Roundup Ready soybeans, but obviously will not tolerate Roundup drift.

In addition we will have LibertyLink soybeans which will tolerate the herbicide Ignite, but will not tolerate glyphosate.

Confused? We are going to have to figure out a way to keep these fields straight, and we cannot assume that it is safe to drift a little on an adjoining field just because it is the same crop.

Did I mention that in the near future we may see as many as five or six different types of herbicide tolerance in soybean fields?

Remember to following all label restrictions concerning herbicide applications. Be aware of the proximity of sensitive crops. Be aware of how hard the wind is blowing. And help keep drift complaints down again in 2009.

Keep it in the field!