Every cook knows a watched pot won’t boil. Kenny Wells is starting to wonder if the same adage applies to herbicide-tolerant traits on the horizon.
The Missouri farmer needs another postemergence technology to help him manage herbicide-resistant waterhemp. Marestail (horseweed) and giant ragweed are the other major troublemakers on his Union Star, Mo., farm.
Wells tested Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Weed Control System that utilizes a newly formulated version of 2,4-D in corn under permits in 2013. “I don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t get this technology,” he said. “I’m using preemergence residual products and still getting escapes. I need more options.”
Farmers clamoring for new herbicide-tolerant technologies got a glimmer of hope in January 2014 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a 204-page draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that indicated it will give a thumbs-up to deregulation of the Enlist trait for corn and soybeans. The technology must still go through a 45-day public comment period before a final draft is issued.
“We’re optimistic that corn and soybean growers will see Enlist technology commercialized for the 2015 season,” said Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader, Enlist Weed Control System. The cotton component is expected for the 2016 crop season.
Monsanto’s new dicamba technology called Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System also became subject to an EIS scrutiny in 2013. Michelle Vigna, Roundup Ready Xtend launch manager for Monsanto, sees the completion of the draft EIS for Dow’s product as optimistic. “Monsanto is looking forward to the same milestone with regard to its review of dicamba-tolerant products in the coming months,” Vigna said.
“The regulatory processes remain on track for the 2015 introduction of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean and Bollgard XtendFlex cotton,” she added. A dicamba-based corn product is moving through Monsanto’s pipeline but is several years behind the other traits.
USDA deregulation is only one piece of the puzzle. Monsanto and Dow must also pursue federal EPA approvals for use of the complementary herbicide products, as well as the federal and state registrations. Additionally, global import approvals are critical steps for product commercialization.
Doug Rushing, Industry Affairs director at Monsanto, remembers a more streamlined time. “It took 125 days to get Roundup Ready soybeans approved in 1995,” Rushing said. “With dicamba-tolerant soybeans, we’re sitting at over 1,300 days since we’ve made our submissions to USDA,” he said.
Dow first submitted its 2,4-D trait technology to USDA in 2009, Palmer noted. “USDA announced in May  that it would do the EIS, and I’m pleased with how fast they turned that around considering the scope of the report,” he said.
Wells already knows 2,4-D well. He’s used it for years in combination with other herbicides as a spring burndown, but is anxious to have a system that avoids a waiting period prior to planting. “I’m looking forward to the timing advantages the tolerant crop offers. I didn’t have any trouble handling the product — volatility and drift concerns seem answered with the new formulation.”
Because of the experimental-use permit, the crop was destroyed prior to flowering, so Wells didn’t have a chance to weigh yield of the new traited hybrids.
“I’d like to have these new technologies to use while I can still use them proactively,” he said. “I’m afraid if they don’t come soon, we will totally lose the viability of glyphosate, and that will put more pressure on the other technologies,” he said.