Key Issues Perspective

Weed-control innovation in herbicides and seed traits

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Innovative products coming from crop protection companies today definitely are not the same type of products that were being developed 10 years ago.

The control of weeds that can infest fields is a prime example of change. The emphasis was originally on herbicide discovery, but not today.

“It has been more about seed traits than herbicides in recent years, and we haven’t had a new active ingredient in some time,” said Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri weed scientist. New herbicide brands have actually been from the same family of old herbicides.

Bayer CropScience is an ag company that has headed toward seed trait discovery, but has also maintained its commitment for herbicide discovery. “They have kept the herbicide screening going, and that is to their credit that there is still herbicide discovery going on at Bayer,” Bradley said.

This HBK test plot shows various varieties and maturities of soybeans being evaluated. Bradley has done extensive evaluations with Bayer CropScience herbicides, and now it includes weed control from seed containing traits resistant to specific herbicides. He expects considerably more evaluations going forward. He said that Bayer CropScience has a history of providing numbered seed and herbicide combinations for him to evaluate two or three years in advance of market introduction.

Bayer CropScience is obviously aligning itself for introducing new technology weed control through seed traits. The most recent addition of Hornbeck Seeds (HBK) in 2011 provided extensive germplasm for soybean production in the Mid-South and South into which a trait can be introduced.

Bradley has evaluated weed control from planting soybeans with the LibertyLink trait with resistance to glufosinate herbicide. He is looking at weed control with soybeans resistant to HPPD-inhibitor herbicides, and he anticipates evaluating weed control from a three-way-trait stack soybean for resistance to HPPD/GlyTol/LibertyLink (HPPD, glyphosate and glufosinate herbicides).

“Bayer CropScience provides the traits; Hornbeck provides the germplasm, and the fit is obvious for advancing Bayer CropScience’s involvement in the seed business,” explained Monty Malone, Bayer CropScience agronomist and former researcher and technical support specialist for Hornbeck.

Bayer CropScience has several advanced new lines of soybeans containing the LibertyLink trait that will be available across the south from Texas to the East Coast as of 2013. The bean varieties come from the Hornbeck research and breeding program. “The new soybean varieties will have agronomic adaptability specifically for the South,” Malone said, “which extends the footprint of where high-performing LibertyLink seed will be available.”

The triple-herbicide-trait seed that Bradley anticipates testing is something that has several hurdles to jump before being registered no earlier than 2015, but that is a quick turnaround for such a unique trait combination.

Bradley sees involvement by university specialists continuing while Bayer CropScience continues to introduce new weed-control technology. “I think it is a beneficial relationship for both parties. Hopefully, we give them some data, comments and feedback on what might be the utility or may not be the utility of a product. It certainly is beneficial for me to be able to stand up in front of growers and talk about a new product that is coming onto the market and to be able to tell them what I think about it.”


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