Toby Ripberger, Beck’s Hybrids Practical Farm Research assistant manager, gives a tour of the test plots at the seed company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Ind. Additional locations are at Fort Branch in southern Indiana, Downs in central Illinois, Neoga in southern Illinois and, new this year, Henderson in western Kentucky and just east of the Farm Science Review show site in London, Ohio. The company is evaluating how different management practices and new technologies – such as cover crops, fungicide timing and nitrogen inhibitors — perform in field environments.
Toby Ripberger, Beck’s Hybrids Practical Farm Research assistant manager, gives a tour of the test plots at the seed company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Ind. Additional locations are at Fort Branch in southern Indiana, Downs in central Illinois, Neoga in southern Illinois and, new this year, Henderson in western Kentucky and just east of the Farm Science Review show site in London, Ohio. The company is evaluating how different management practices and new technologies – such as cover crops, fungicide timing and nitrogen inhibitors — perform in field environments.

ATLANTA, Ind. — New ammunition in farmers’ war on weeds will be available in a couple of years.

Representatives of BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta discussed emerging herbicide-tolerant soybean technologies during the recent Media Day at Beck’s Hybrids.

“Over the last decade, decade and a half, there’ve been tremendous changes in agriculture. It’s always been very dynamic, but never more so than we’ve seen over the last several years, largely driven by some of the technology like Roundup Ready crops,” said BASF Technical Market Manager Luke Bozeman.

“When there was opportunity to reduce tillage, we saw a lot of improvement in soil by adoption of reduced tillage selection. Herbicide selection was certainly impacted. Prior to Roundup Ready, there was much more diversity in herbicides that we used in row crops. After Roundup Ready, which is a fantastic herbicide, it became very simple. There was a lot of focus on a single, effective product.”

As part of that overall change, there has been an increase in selection for weed resistance, Bozeman noted

“While certainly that’s not an exclusive glyphosate issue, I think it’s one that has had very great impact over the last several years,” he said, noting more than 400 weed species have been identified as resistant to a herbicide globally.

Waterhemp, a problem for growers in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and many other states, is considered as “the cockroach of weeds,” Bozeman added.

“It’s a very difficult weed,” he said. “It can adapt very quickly, and we can see that by the number of classes of herbicides that it’s developed resistance to over the years, again not just glyphosate — what that tells me is we need to develop new technologies, but also be very adept at stewarding these new technologies because we can’t afford to lose the ability to control something like waterhemp.”

BASF is working collaboratively with Monsanto Co. on its dicamba-tolerant cropping systems, developing an innovative formulation of dicamba, named Engenia.

Glyphosate resistance is highly prevalent in the South, recently leveling out in the Southeast and increasing in the Mid-South, said Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader for the Enlist Weed Control System for Dow AgroSciences.

While that prevalence currently is categorized as “low” in the Midwest, growers should not get comfortable, he stressed, adding it increased a whopping 50 percent from 2011 to 2012 in the region, where there are multiple species, shifting geographies and evolving physiologies of weeds.

“It’s important that we look at more than just glyphosate resistance because as we go into the future we are managing a few more complexities than just that variable,” he explained.

The Enlist Weed Control System is built around 2,4-D, which is complimentary to glyphosate, is systemic and moves in the plant, boasts very strong broadleaf control, is a complex, not single-site mode of action, has been rigorously tested and registered in more than 60 countries and has been on the market for more than 60 years.

The system will include a new 2,4-D product, called 2,4-D choline. It will be commercialized, pending regulatory approvals, in 2015 in corn and two platforms in soybeans, Enlist soybeans, which can be stacked with glyphosate-tolerant traits, and Enlist E3 soybeans, a single molecular stack that provides tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate and 2,4-D and created in collaboration with MS Technologies, followed later by cotton.

Enlist Duo herbicide features near-zero volatility, minimized potential for drift, lower odor and better handling characteristics through a technology package named Colex-D Technology. A comprehensive stewardship program, Enlist Ahead, also has been developed.

“Plan now — don’t wait until this gets to the farm,” Palmer said of glyphosate resistance. “Once it’s there, and the guys down south will tell you this, it’s too late.”

He suggested diversifying modes of action — “pre-emerge herbicides are a great tool to use” — scouting fields and applying herbicides for the hardest-to-control weed in the field, “really back to basics from a weed control standpoint.”

Palmer said some farmers, particularly in southern Illinois, could have a difficult time controlling waterhemp, which could cost 15 percent, 20 percent or even 25 percent of their yield.

“From a weed control standpoint, earlier is better, for sure,” he said.

Brett Miller, Syngenta technical product lead, touted MGI soybeans, a new soybean trait that confers tolerance to mesotrione, glufosinate-ammonium and isoxaflutole. Its launch is expected between 2015 and 2020 from Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.

“Growers are realizing that total post-emergence weed control is not sustainable,” Miller said. “You need to have programs that rely on residual and have pre- and post-emergence products, in many cases with overlapping activity in residual to control weeds.”

Surveys show concern about resistant weeds is increasing among growers, said Allen Gent, Bayer CropScience U.S. soybean product manager.

“What we’ve done over the last decade is not working anymore,” he said. “It’s not getting any easier to control weeds within soybeans.”

“What we’re seeing today is the effectiveness of crop protection is really diminishing,” he added. “We’re switching a lot of brands that are good herbicides, but they’re really all the same mode of action.”

“We need to do what we can to preserve the technologies we have out there,” he said. “Even with the new seed technologies coming down the pike, we need to make sure we’re good stewards of the technologies moving forward.”

Gent previewed Balance GT soybeans, developed by Bayer CropScience and MS Technologies and tolerant to both glyphosate and isoxaflutole, a newer mode of action HPPD chemistry that blocks the pigment production in plants and basically causes weeds to starve to death.

He also said there is no known resistance to glufosinate, the chemistry found in Liberty herbicide. While that system must be managed differently than glyphosate, it is a very effective technology that is available today, he said.

Gent added that glyphosate will continue to a part of the mix used by farmers because it is economical, it is flexible and, despite increasing issues with resistance, it still controls a lot of weeds, especially grasses.

“Weed resistance is not going away. It’s a trend that’s continuing. I don’t care if you call it weed resistance or it’s tough-to-control weeds, if the weed is not dead,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that what we’re doing today is not working the way it used to a decade ago, so we need to change our practices.”