New Herbicides On Their Way

FMC to roll out two new modes of action in next decade ( Lindsey Benne )

In a world where resistant weeds run rampant, one chemical company will introduce a novel rice herbicide and a corn and soybean herbicide in the next five to 10 years.

 “When we say new mode of action, it means there’s not a product on the market for that crop or that use,” says Kathy Shelton, FMC vice president and chief technology officer. “We have one molecule in our pipeline that doesn’t have a name yet that focuses on rice, against grasses mainly, and we’re looking in that chemical group for new molecules that would be effective in corn and soybeans.

“We’re also excited about another unnamed molecule—a new MOA [mode of action] in corn and soybeans that is extremely effective on Palmer amaranth,” she adds. “We’re expecting this one to launch in 2026.”

These discoveries are significant because they mark not only new molecules but also new MOA. This gives farmers an advantage on troublesome weeds because they’ve never been exposed to this nature of chemical.

If you’re like many farmers, itching for a new herbicide option, here’s what you can expect from FMC’s new MOA in corn and soybeans:

  • It’s for pre-emergent use, safe for soybean rotation and plantback isn’t an issue, Shelton says.
  • The primary use is in corn but FMC is working to make it available in soybeans, too.
  • FMC doesn’t have accompanying in-season seed products.
  • Tests show high levels of efficacy against Palmer amaranth as well as waterhemp and red root pigweed

FMC is protecting their investment through stewardship and encourages farmers to do their part to preserve current herbicides and new ones when they become available.

“We will probably sell [the new herbicide option] as a mixture with multiple MOA and combine that with integrated pest management best practices,” Shelton says.

The discovery advanced to development in 2017 and could hit the market in eight years. In addition to corn and soybeans, FMC is testing the molecule in cotton and sugarcane.

Rice farmers will soon have a new herbicide to fight resistant grasses. Patented in 2014, FMC tested more than 3,000 versions of the molecule before finding the crop-safe version.

“It’s the safest molecule we could find for all kinds of rice and agronomic practices across geographies,” Shelton explains. “We haven’t found the best version of this molecule for corn and soybeans yet, but we have strong leads.”

Each molecule costs between $150 million to $170 million to produce, depending on regulatory timelines and unexpected expenses. 

FMC Scales Up In Ag Market

FMC will spin off its lithium business, Livent, in March to become a pure-play agriculture chemical company.

“The acquisition of a large part of the DuPont Crop Protection business was a great fit, positioning FMC as one of the five leading innovation-based ag companies with a strong commercial portfolio and R&D pipeline,” says Pierre Brondeau, CEO and chairman, FMC.

After acquisitions and investments, the company spends between $300 and $400 million on chemical and biological research and development, which, according to FMC, is as much or more than the other “big four,” despite being a smaller company, because of their singular focus.

 “Our challenge is to bring the best chemistry to the marketplace; we are not in seeds,” says Mark Douglas, FMC president and COO.