Farmers hope new soybean product will help fight herbicide-resistant weeds


You are a farmer who has been treating your field with herbicide to kill off the weeds that threaten to smother your soybeans. Finally, the time to harvest comes, only to find out the product you spent a lot on did not work. Your field is full of weeds.

This is a problem many modern farmers face. The problem, however, is not a new one. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says the first report of herbicide-resistant weeds dates back to 1970. The report confirmed common groundsel was resistant to Atrazine, a common herbicide.

Ever since that report, agricultural scientists have been fighting a battle with weeds to develop a substance that was safe to the plants they wanted, but killed the weeds. In 1996, glyphosate-tolerant soybeans were commercialized, with glyphosate-tolerant corn following the next year.

Glyphosate herbicide kills plants by blocking the EPSPS enzyme, an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids, vitamins and many secondary plant metabolites. The crops were modified to tolerate the herbicide by incorporating a soil bacterium gene that produces a glyphosate tolerant form of EPSPS.

This method worked, and had been used extensively for weed control, with fields being sprayed multiple times a year. The exposure, however, made these weeds resistant. Bob Prible, owner of Prible Ag Products in Poneto, Ind., says the main weeds he hears of is waterhemp and marestail, or horseweed.

“Our current chemistry doesn’t seem to be dealing with it or handing it well in these farms and fields,” Prible said. “It’s a huge concern for farmers.”

A new bean looks to be the next line of defense for farmers. Monsanto developed a new soybean variety that will be resistant to the next herbicide to enter the market. Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans were shown off during the annual Field Day at Prible Ag Products. The soybean variety is resistant to dicamba, a herbicide just recently approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental watchdogs, however, are leery at the new product. They say the herbicide is prone to drifting, possibly hitting untreated fields.

Monsanto official say the new formulations have a low volatility compared to existing dicamba formulations. Successful Farming reports Miriam Paris, U.S. soybean marketing manager for Monsanto, is hopeful for the new formula.

“We also have conducted quite a bit of research on BMPs (best management practices) for spray applications,” Paris said in an interview with Successful Farming. “We have conducted many educational efforts to ensure the herbicide stays where it needs to stay, and promote practices like using the right nozzles.”

As for Prible, he is excited for the new soybean variety.

“Everybody has a lot of questions about them,” Prible said. “It is a huge thing in the farming industry this year. That is a new, exciting, probably revolutionary thing for farmers in their bean fields this year.”


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