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Farmers Moving to Dominant Traits

From Cotton Grower Magazine – November 2016

Think American cotton producers are ready for new herbicide-tolerant trait technology? Consider this: of the top 20 varieties planted in the United States in 2016, nine featured the XtendFlex trait technology – a trait that has only been available to American growers since 2015.

Those varieties – from Deltapine, Americot, All-Tex/DynaGro and CROPLAN – accounted for 38% of all cotton acres planted in the United States in 2016. For reference, only three varieties featuring the XtendFlex technology broke the top 20 in 2015, accounting for fewer than 5.5% of acreage nationwide last season. That is a remarkable amount of market share gained for a product that had only been available commercially for one year prior to this planting season.

Of course, this comes as no surprise to researchers at Bayer, who have seen popularity for their varieties boom with the introduction of their GlyTol and LibertyLink technologies, which feature full tolerance to glufosinate and glyphosate herbicides. Meanwhile, Dow is poised to ride a wave of interest in the company’s new Enlist trait technology, featuring tolerance to glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, into the 2017 planting season.

The message is clear: American growers are ready for trait solutions to the most pressing crop protection issues. Resistant weeds – especially glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth – have been the driving factor in variety selection in recent years for growers across the Cotton Belt.

“When you look at the rate of adoption, the thing that XtendFlex brought to the Deltapine brand was that, in 2015 and 2016, growers had the ability to use Liberty herbicide, coupled with Roundup and a good residual program to control resistant Palmer amaranth,” says Keylon Gholston, Deltapine cotton products manager. “So that certainly helped with adoption.”

Gholston is quick to point out that the germplasm that is being paired with the new technology has also played a major role in its success. After all, there’s no underestimating the importance of yield and fiber quality. Many in the Extension community have echoed that thought.

“Adoption rates have been very great for two main reasons,” says University of Tennessee Extension Cotton Specialist Tyson Raper. “First, a large percentage of cotton producers within Tennessee need these technologies to continue to produce cotton within our current system. Herbicide resistance in the Mid-South is a tremendous problem, and we are in need of solutions. If properly stewarded and used in conjunction with resistance management strategies, these new trait systems appear to represent viable solutions to the herbicide resistance problem.

“Second, these traits are not being introduced into the market within second-rate germplasm; on the contrary, the new herbicide traits are being introduced within cultivars of exceptional yield stability, yield potential and fiber quality,” Raper says. “This is evident by looking at land-grant variety testing data throughout our region over the past few years.”

Raper says he believes increased resistant weed pressure will keep the new technologies popular in his state in coming years.

“You don’t have to read much past the headlines to recognize it’s been two tough years within the Mid-South concerning weed pressure and off-label applications of certain products,” says Raper. “Still, I believe the proposed systems, when properly stewarded, can co-exist with susceptible species.”

He and other Extension specialists have long pointed out that each additional trait package relieves resistance pressure off of the others which are already in existence.

This crucial added benefit of new trait introductions intensifies the urgency surrounding federal approvals associated with the XtendFlex and Enlist technologies. In 2015, USDA gave its approval to the XtendFlex trait package in cotton, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeled the use of Monsanto’s new, low-volatility XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology dicamba formulation on November 9.

Similarly, Dow’s Enlist trait package for cotton was granted federal approval in 2015, although, as of this writing, EPA has not approved the use of the company’s Enlist Duo 2,4-D formulation in the crop.

With that thought in mind, Raper says growers should take an informed approach to utilizing new trait technologies for the first time on their farms.

“I would encourage against investing 100% within any one system,” Raper says. “I understand diversity of trait requires detailed notes and can cause heartburn, but I would urge growers to consider the long-term financial impacts of relying upon one system.

“Additionally, growers should seek out information from their state’s Extension specialists as they begin integrating these technologies into their operations,” he adds. “Extension weed specialists within each state will be ramping up educational efforts on stewardship as these products are released. Use these trainings and educational opportunities to stay informed on best management practices.”

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