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High Yield Soybeans: Weed Control

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a lot of talk in the industry about Kip Cullers, and his record-breaking 160-bushel soybean yield. Suddenly, the goal everyone is talking about is 100 bushels soybeans. A lot of my winter meetings had seminars on this subject. There are yield contests in both states I work in to promote techniques for growing high yield soybeans. Why all the push to increase soybean yields? Demand. There’s a huge world demand for high-protein crops in the world, and we don’t grow enough protein to meet it. One out of every four rows of soybeans that are grown in the US are exported. Soybeans are over $14 a bushel on the CBOT, and despite the high price, demand does not seem to be cooling.

So there’s a huge demand for soybeans, and we need more of them. Soybeans have been a fickle crop to get yield increases out of. Unlike corn, where we have increased average yield by around 4 bushels per year, soybean yield growth has been very slow. As the plant breeders work at developing new lines of soybeans with increased yield, we as agronomists and growers need to do our part, too. We need to stop treating soybeans as ‘the crop that you plant when you don’t plant corn’, and actually take some time and manage them. One of the easiest first steps to take is to look at your weed control program.

With Roundup Ready soybeans, it’s easy to kill weeds. What it is not so easy to do is properly manage weeds. Research shows that timing of weed removal is just as critical in soybeans as it is in corn. Waiting until weeds are 12″ tall before spraying them with glyphosate (Roundup, or one of the many generic brands) can cost you five bushels in yield. With $14 soybeans, you just lost $70 an acre, simply by waiting too long to spray. A better approach is to use a soil-applied herbicide product before, or just after planting. These products will give residual control of weeds for several weeks after planting, allowing you time to spray the glyphosate before the weeds get too tall.

There’s apparently a huge demand for these soil-applied residual products this year. In talking with a manufacturer rep yesterday, he was sure that he would sell out of his entire inventory before the season was over. It’s a money-making, easy decision. You’ll gain yield, you’ll help reduce development of resistance to glyphosate, and you’ll get better control of tough weeds that even glyphosate has problems with.

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Monsanto Speaks Sense

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

The sales staff at the coop I work for has weekly staff meetings in the winter. As part of the meeting, we usually have one of our reps come in and talk about his products. This week, it was Monsanto’s turn. Our rep said something that really shocked me, and then went on to discuss programs and strategies that showed he (and Monsanto) really meant it. He said that when it came to dealing with Roundup resistance in weed populations ‘We were wrong.’

Five years ago, I was working for a different company, in a different state, with a different rep. We were starting to see that some broadleaf weeds were sometimes a bit tough to kill with Roundup alone, and a lot of Monsanto’s competitors were pushing to have their chemistries sprayed along with Roundup for a quicker weed kill, and to possibly prevent weed populations developing resistance. I remember clear as day sitting in a very similar staff meeting to the one I had this morning. Our Monsanto rep, who clearly had a lot of sales training to combat the trend of adding other chemicals with Roundup, promoted this simple strategy: Don’t add additional chemicals to improve weed kill. Just spray more Roundup.

Just spray more Roundup. That was the Monsanto company line, just five years ago. Resistance is very unlikely, they said. Just spray higher rates of Roundup if you have tough weeds. Yes, they usually talked about adding residual chemistries preplant and preemergence, but it wasn’t a focus.

Five years later, suddenly they’re taking the stance they should have taken from the start. It’s taken a disaster in cotton-growing country with Roundup-resistant palmer amaranth. It’s taken the threat of spreading triple resistant (resistant to Roundup, and two other groups of chemistries) waterhemp in the cornbelt.  But finally, finally, they’re talking sense. Roundup is an important chemistry, they say now, let’s not misuse it. Let’s use residual chemistries with different modes of action, let’s do some tankmixes with other products, let’s not overuse Roundup, and risk losing what good it can do for us.

Welcome to sound agronomic practices, Monsanto. Where the hell where you five years ago?

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