Corteva to accelerate Enlist E3 soybean rollout

(Merschman Seeds video screengrab via YouTube)

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. seed and crop chemical maker Corteva said Thursday it will accelerate production of its next-generation biotech soybean seeds and complementary herbicides in Canada and the U.S. over the next five years.

The move heightens the competition for sales to farmers with rivals Bayer and BASF.

Up to 20 per cent of U.S. soybean acres this year could be planted with Corteva’s Enlist E3 soybeans, which are genetically modified to withstand applications of three different weed killers, the company said. That forecast was up from Corteva’s prior estimate for plantings on 10 per cent of U.S. acres.

Corteva also said that starting in 2021 it will “significantly reduce” over five years its volume of seeds engineered by Bayer to tolerate herbicides based on the chemicals dicamba and glyphosate.

Corteva, which spun off last year after a merger of Dow Chemical and Dupont, had previously been set to sell Bayer’s dicamba-resistant Xtend brand soybean seeds for the next few years.

Corteva now expects “minimal use of the trait platform after the completion of the ramp-up of the Enlist weed control system,” according to a statement.

Bayer’s Xtend soybeans have been popular for their robust yields but have drawn complaints, lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny after the dicamba herbicide drifted to neighbouring fields and killed plants that were not genetically modified to resist it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 approved the use of dicamba for two more years, adding restrictions on how it can be used.

Bayer has separately faced lawsuits claiming that its glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide causes cancer. The company said on Friday it reached an agreement with plaintiffs’ lawyers to postpone a Missouri jury trial over such allegations.

Corteva shares were up 4.7 per cent in morning trading after the company posted a surprise quarterly profit. Bayer’s shares were down 1.9 per cent, and BASF’s down 1.3 per cent.

— Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek and Karl Plume in Chicago.

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