Slow rollout: New multi-mode chemical system

Farm Forum

ARTHUR, N.D. — It’s still seasons away from commercial farm use, but Monsanto Co. is conducting a gradual roll out of its Roundup Ready Xtend program, making sure dealers and farmers are schooled on the use of a new multi-mode chemical system to control herbicide-resistant weeds.

The company invited half a dozen of the region’s farm media to a field day near Arthur, N.D., in Cass County, on July 12, where company officials talked about the product. It combines Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistance with resistance to dicamba, a product of BASF.

Steve Valenti, a Monsanto weed management technical representative for North Dakota and South Dakota, offered much of the technical data. Valenti is responsible for two large demonstration sites near Arthur, N.D., and near Chester, S.D., as well as research plots elsewhere.

Drift, volatility and tank clean-out were among the topics for the new products, which are designed to confront the “new frontier of herbicide resistant weeds” that has arisen for farmers in the South and, in the past few years, in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Monsanto is testing the product on the plots, as well as with “Ground-Breaker” field-sized plots, with large equipment.

The Roundup with dicamba system had been expected to be available in 2014, but was held up because of an extra requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement study from the Environmental Protection Agency. Valenti and colleagues said they are confident that a “good, sophisticated” clientele of farmers will be able to safely and effectively handle the complexity.

No easy button

Some crop consultants report an “explosion” of glyphosate-resistant kochia, waterhemp and common ragweed this year.

“There’s no ‘easy button’ here, but if you want tools, and you need effective weed control, this is an option,” said Michael Naig, a regional manager for government affairs based in Ankeny, Iowa. Naig said farmers dealing with multiple modes of chemical action will need to be more cognizant of what they’re spraying, and how. Monsanto will offer financial incentive programs to encourage the use of additional action modes.

It’s likely that co-ops and other retailers will keep separate sprayers for dicamba sprays, but some farmers will need to be rigorous with sprayer clean-out requirements, said Jack Brodshaug, a technology development representative based in Fargo, N.D.

With multiple modes of action, Brodshaug said a single rinse for a typical sprayer might take three 15-minute rinses for a total of 45 minutes. He said that’ll become just as big an issue with competing spray technology, where the active ingredients include 2-4D, or Liberty herbicide. Each of the three rinses might require “tank cleaner” products.

Among other things, Valenti said farmers will use a variety of ways to verify they are spraying at the proper wind speed, including hand-held anemometers and smartphone apps to get weather reports. The recommended wind speed is 3 to 10 mph, and with specific nozzles that make extra-coarse droplets. Many commercial sprayers now have wind speed meters built into the machines, recording activity.

Valenti acknowledged that farmers who have a tough time getting into fields to ground-spray a crop may not be able to aerially apply the chemical because of potential drift. He said a pre-emergent herbicide would be “a must,” for soybeans, and there is flexibility to go up to the R1 maturity stage.

“We run into some of this every year,” he said. “It’s something we have to work with. If a guy can’t get in at the right time, and can’t get in there to spray, he might have to use something different. We don’t want to violate the label, so that’s kind of where we’re at.”

Working on volatility

Valenti said Monsanto is working to develop products that are less volatile, so they won’t accidentally drift to non-target crops, even at low wind speeds. The company recommends nozzles that deliver coarser spray, spraying at no more than 15 mph, 20 inches above the weed canopy.

Monsanto says spray buffers will be important in the system, and are still being developed. Valenti said North Dakota farmers are already accustomed to buffers because of the variety of crops grown here, and sensitivities among them. He said some of the buffers next to susceptible crops are still being determined in conjunction with the EPA.

The media tour was the third of several seed dealers and chemical retail tours that were to be held near Arthur. Some seed company officials said they were scheduled to attend similar tours in Minnesota. Farmer meetings will be held this winter and farmer plot tours will come in the summer of 2014.

“Monsanto’s made a huge commitment on this and I see the effort as being unprecedented,” Valenti said. “This is the first time I’ve seen a company take it to heart, make sure their products are being used right in the system they’re promoting.”