CNS Canada — Soybean producers in Ontario are eager to start planting next season with new ammunition against Canada fleabane.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, genetically modified with a tolerance to dicamba and glyphosate herbicides, were recently approved for import by the European Union.
Monsanto planned to introduce Xtend soybeans in Canada for the 2016 growing season, but was held back due to the EU’s lack of clearance.
Canada fleabane is the biggest problem weed soybean farmers have in Ontario, which has become resistant to Roundup, said Jeff Barlow, a farmer near Binbrook, Ont. and director with Grain Farmers of Ontario.
“We’re pretty excited about Roundup Ready Xtend being approved… it will give everybody another mode of action to beat up on some of this fleabane,” he said.
Canada fleabane has strong seeds that can survive in the ground for years and spread quickly, he said.
“It’s a very proliferous plant… they spread really quick and grow really tall, so if you have a lot of them in your (soybean) field, they’ll hurt the yield a lot…and there’s no way for you to kill it,” he said.
Since first being identified in the province in 2010, glyphosate-resistant Canada fleabane has spread from one county to 26 counties in only six growing seasons, said Mike Cowbrough, weed management lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture at Guelph.
“Like any other weed, it’s competing for resources and that will come at the expense of yield… If there’s a heavy enough population, there have been documented yield losses as high as 97 per cent,” he said.
“More realistically, it’s about 50 to 60 per cent loss on average if you can’t control it effectively. Regardless, whether it’s 50 per cent or 97 per cent, that’s pretty significant economically.”
Until now, the only opportunity to manage Canada fleabane in soybean crops was some sort of tillage or pre-seed burndown prior to planting, Cowbrough said.
“Once the soybean crops have emerged, we don’t have the tools to control (Canada fleabane), aside from physically going in and pulling plants, but when you have a population of 60,000 to 80,000 plants per acre, that would be a tough task,” he said.
Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans will be resistant to dicamba, a herbicide very effective against Canada fleabane, Barlow said.
“It will help a lot of people next year…give them one more thing they can use to keep the fleabane at bay,” he said.
In areas of the U.S. where Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans have already been planted, dicamba has been causing headaches for neighbouring fields, as the chemical easily drifts and is toxic to regular soybeans and other crops, according to U.S. reports.
There is a concern for dicamba drift in Ontario, especially in southwest areas rich with horticulture, tree fruit and vineyards, said Cowbrough.
However, the herbicide has very specific guidelines on drift mitigation and what applicators should be doing to apply responsibly.
“With any herbicide or pesticide applied to a crop, you always want to mitigate drift. Some herbicides, their drift injury is just more visible than others,” Cowbrough said.
— Erin DeBooy writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow her at @ErinDeBooy on Twitter.