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Could non-GMO beans boost income?

Should there be non-GMO soybeans in your future? That may depend upon three factors: premium opportunities, availability of competitive genetics and your willingness to step up your management.

Richard and Jack Crone, Martinsville, and neighbor Bill Warmoth believe non-GMO soybeans are a good fit for some acres. Premiums have run as high as $2 for specific varieties.

Finding competitive genetics in non-Roundup, non-Ignite varieties can be difficult, Crone notes.

Several companies still offer non-GMO varieties, although choices are often limited. For example, a new seed brand, 1st Choice Seeds, Milton, offers eight Roundup Ready varieties, three Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield options, eight Ignite-tolerant varieties and four non-GMO varieties.

Key Points

• Healthy premiums command a look at raising non-GMO soybeans.

• Expect to find fewer variety options for non-GMOs.

• Raising non-GMO soybeans requires more management.

“You’ve got to clean the combine out very well,” Crone says. “Tests they use to detect GMO are accurate. You must also clean the drill or planter carefully.”

Weed control may be the biggest difference. Expect to pay more and intensify management.

“I usually grow some GMO beans,” Warmoth says. “Where I need to fight tough weeds like pokeberry, it’s easier with glyphosate.”

Make comparisons

Chad Lee, an Extension agronomist at the University of Kentucky, says that as long as premiums are around $1.25 to $1.50 per bushel or more, you owe it to yourself to pencil out cost comparisons.

Lee prepared an example for comparison purposes only. He assumed one possible herbicide combination for non-GMOs, including Roundup WeatherMax for burndown, Authority MTZ, Prowl 3.3EC, Pursuit, Select Max, crop oil and UAN solution. He compared to two passes of Roundup WeatherMax in a GMO system, one at burndown rate and one at 22 ounces per acre.

His example didn’t include harvest, trucking, storage or conditioning costs. He assumed a yield of 47 bushels per acre for non-GMO beans, vs. 50 bushels per acre for GMO soybeans, and a $1.50-per-bushel premium. He showed a $1-per-acre advantage for non-GMOs.

“Small things, like a change in yield comparisons, change in premium or additional herbicide applications, all change relative comparisons,” Lee concludes.


WORTH THE EFFORT: As long as the premium justifies it, Richard Crone believes raising some non-GMO soybeans is worth it.

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.