Monsanto’s Sara Allen holds up a Palmer amaranth plant in a company plot in Collinsville, Ill. Resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth are one reason a number of agricultural companies are developing new cropping systems.
Monsanto’s Sara Allen holds up a Palmer amaranth plant in a company plot in Collinsville, Ill. Resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth are one reason a number of agricultural companies are developing new cropping systems.

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Farmers looking beyond Roundup Ready and LibertyLink cropping systems may not have long to wait.

A number of companies are set to unveil new systems that will provide alternatives to weed control practices.

“In the future, we’ve got a lot of choices coming down the pipeline,” Monsanto’s Sara Allen told farmers at a recent field day sponsored by the company.

Presently, there are three cropping methods, according to Allen, who adds conventional farming to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready and Bayer CropScience’s LibertyLink offerings. But that will change soon, as other systems come online.

Bayer and MS Technologies have joined forces on a stacked system — Balance soybeans — which have resistance to both glyphosate and isoxaflutole.

In addition, Dow AgroSciences, also teaming with MS Technologies, is seeking approval for the third leg of its Enlist program. The Enlist E3 trait stack confers tolerance to 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate.

Bayer and Syngenta also are set to roll out the so-called MGI soybean, which exhibits resistance to the herbicides mesotrione, glufosinate and isoxaflutole.

Monsanto also has developed Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, which offer resistance to both glyphosate and dicamba.

“It’s good. We’re going to have different modes of action we can use in soybeans,” Allen said. “But from a practical standpoint, a grower is not going to have all those technologies on his farm. It’s going to be too many to deal with, as far as applications. For custom applicators, it’s the same way. It’s going to be confusing in the near future.”

The various technologies are set to be available to farmers in the middle to latter half of the decade. Some await regulatory approval by the U.S. and foreign governments.

“Today, we’re starting to approach those discussions of the pros and cons of the systems,” Allen said. “It’s going to come down to a couple of systems on your farm. Today, we’re starting that conversation. We don’t have Balance beans out yet or HPPD beans. We don’t have the availability of 2,4-D or Enlist beans.”

The expanding pool of cropping systems will provide more tools against herbicide-resistant weeds. Glyphosate, in particular, has become increasingly ineffective against resistant forms of a number of weed species, including waterhemp, marestail, ragweed and Palmer amaranth.

The wet year following record drought in the Midwest has brought such weaknesses to surface.

“Marestail and waterhemp are really rearing their ugly heads this year,” Allen said. “We didn’t see much marestail for a couple of years, but this year it’s everywhere. Dicamba will be a good tool, not only in a burndown situation, but in a crop.”

She warned that systems such as Monsanto’s new Roundup Ready 2 Xtend should not be considered the be-all and end-all.

“It’s not going to be the silver bullet. It’s not going to be used alone,” she said. “As soon as we use it alone, we’ll break it, just like we did the Roundup system. We’ve got to make sure we use multiple modes of action and we use those full-rate residuals along with it.”

Other management practices should be incorporated into herbicide systems in order to reduce the threat of yield losses due to weed pressure. They include rotation, cultivation and pre-emergence herbicide application.

“It’s important to think ahead,” Allen said. “A lot of times a grower will say, ‘I’m going to plant corn next year.’ But they don’t think about what they’re going to use in that corn, as far as herbicide or what’s available to use. Start thinking about not just the next year, but two, three, four months out on a rotation schedule.

“We need to change cultural practices and planting dates, which could spread the workload. We need to change fertility programs and tillage. When you change tillage, you can reduce the plant material and break those pest cycles, diseases or insects that overwinter in the stover of the previous crop.”