Monsanto Encourages U.S. Farmers To Use Additional Herbicides

Monsanto will pay American farmers to use at least one herbicide in addition to glyphosate on Roundup Ready soybeans next year.

It seems odd to promote a competitor’s product, but it’s part of Monsanto’s effort to prevent more weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate, Monsanto spokeswoman Janice Person said in an interview from St. Louis, Nov. 5.

Monsanto’s rebate also applies to one of its new American-registered herbicides called Warrant.

“To keep all the (herbicide) tools on the table weed scientists are telling us we need to make sure we use (herbicides with) multiple modes of action (for killing weeds),” Person said in an interview from St. Louis, Nov. 5. “The way our (program) is designed, it encourages farmers to get another mode of action on their farm. Roundup has been so successful a lot of farmers have gone to a Rounduponly program.

“Whether they have (Roundup) resistance or not we’d really like them to look at another mode of action.”

Roundup Ready soybean growers can get Monsanto rebates of up to $6 an acre by applying two herbicides, as well as Roundup. Roundup Ready cotton growers can get $20 an acre by using additional weed killers.

University of Guelph weed scientist Rene Van Acker hasn’t seen program details, but agrees Monsanto’s plan is sound in principle. Researchers have recommended for years rotating herbicide groups (with differing modes of action) to delay herbicide-resistant weeds.

Some weeds are naturally resistant to certain herbicides. If those resistant weeds are repeatedly exposed to the same herbicide over time only the resistant ones survive. They crossbreed and produce more resistant weeds.

Monsanto’s herbicide rebate program is only available in the U.S. right now, but other markets, including Canada, are being considered, Person said.

If Monsanto wants to delay the onset of glyphosate weeds, its program should be available in Canada where glyphosate-resistant weeds are still rare, Van Acker said. The only case so far is a field with resistant giant ragweed in Ontario.

Monsanto is looking at new tank-mix options for additional control in soybeans in Ontario where glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed has been identified, Monsanto Canada Trish Jordan said in an email.

There are 17 weed species – including giant ragweed – confirmed to be glyphosate resistant around the globe. Ten are in the United States. All have been

Whetherthey have(Roundup) resistanceornot we’dreallylikethem tolookatanother modeofaction.”

– JANICE PERSON

managed with other herbicides and cultural practices, according to Monsanto.

Person acknowledged Roundup (glyphosate), which controls 300 different weeds, is a victim of its own popularity.

Its use exploded with the introduction of Roundup Ready crops – soybeans, cotton, corn and canola. It’s not unusual for some fields in the U.S. to get sprayed with glyphosate twice a year or more, every year.

“It’s a great tool in the tool box and it has done so well some people have relied on it as their only tool and that’s why Roundup Ready crops have been so embraced by farmers,” Person said. “I think we’re at the point where we need to look at the stewardship of this technology long term because farmers find it so beneficial, we’d like to make sure it stays on the table long term.”

Most farmers agree. But another way to delay resistant weeds is to use less glyphosate, according to Stephen Powles, a professor of plant biology at the University of Western Australia. According to Powles, glyphosate is the world’s most important herbicide.

Farmers who don’t have glyphosate-resistant weeds still have a chance to avoid them, he wrote in theNew York Timesthis spring.

“This will call for diversifying crops and giving glyphosate a rest by using other herbicides and non-chemical weed control tools that make sense,” he wrote. “Diversity offers the best chance of saving glyphosate.”

It’s hard to fathom Monsanto advising farmers to give Roundup a miss. While its herbicide rebate program will cost money, to qualify farmers need to apply Roundup on a Roundup Ready crop. Monsanto still earns revenue on the Roundup technical use agreement fee.

Even if American soybean farmers wanted to skip glyphosate one year, they’d still have to plant a Roundup Ready variety, according to Van Acker.

“The reality is you can’t buy anything else but Roundup Ready (soy)beans in the U.S. – nothing, they aren’t there,” he said.

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About the author

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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