Assign a Value to Roundup Ready

As crop costs rise for growers who manage for resistant weeds, the question is whether managing for resistance is necessary to hold onto Roundup Ready technology or whether these weeds already soaked up the value of that technology.

Published on: Mar 30, 2010
Roger Carter said succinctly what consultants, extension personnel and growers had said in many more words with underlying shades of grey during the 2010 Beltwide Consultants Conference:
"Have we reached a point where we're paying more than we're getting out of it?"

Monsanto Co. leaders have heard the question in all its many forms. Most often, growers - and particularly cotton growers - ask: Is Roundup Ready still of value to me? The issue hits cotton growers hardest because the herbicides available to them aren’t as effective as chemistries available for corn and soybean, the two other crops with widely used Roundup Ready systems.

For cotton growers who don't have resistant weeds in their fields, Monsanto Marketing Manager Dave Rhylander says, "The answer is yes, it is." Rhylander points to rapid adoption of the Roundup Ready Flex technology in many regions as evidence that growers are reaping a value.

For growers who have resistant weeds, Rhylander says, "It's probably not as valuable as it used to be."

However, Rhylander points out, Monsanto's Roundup Ready Cotton Performance Plus Program offsets depreciation of the technology.

"If you're in the Mid-South where you're planting five bags to the acre, it's roughly $65 back on you tech fee," Rhylander says. "If you're in
Georgia, where you're planting six back to the acres, it's about $75 back on your tech fee."

Furthermore, only seven weeds are resistant to Roundup, or glyphosate.

"You still have 150 weeds or so that were hard to control prior to Roundup Ready," says Rick Cole, Monsanto technical development specialist. And that still are controlled with glyphosate, or Roundup, at burndown and over the top.

Given those numbers, Rhylander says, growers must still keep their focus on the ultimate digits: pounds or bushels per acre. The questions to ask, Rhylander says, are: "How do I go for the highest yield? And then, after that, how do I address weed resistance?"

Without figuring either Performance Plus or Bayer CropScience's recently announced reduced price on Ignite, Auburn University Extension Cotton Specialist Charles Burmester ran the numbers in an economic comparison of two cotton fields: one planted to DP 0935 B2RF and one to FM 1845
LLB2. The Roundup Ready Flex and Liberty Link plots were planted at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center in north Alabama in a field with a history of morningglory problems that had been planted with a rye cover. Growers in that area don't yet battle glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth but do wage war with glyphosate-resistant horseweed.

Cost per acre for the seed, herbicide program and technology fee was $130.63 for the FiberMax field and $138.64 for the Deltapine field. Burndown, insect control and defoliation costs were the same for both fields.

"I thought it was awfully close, really," Burmester says. So was the yield, FM 1845 yielded 2,958 pounds, of which 1,248 was lint. DP 0935 yielded 2,680 pounds of which 1,211 was lint. The grades were similar, but color in particular pulled the FiberMax loan premium up to 55.4 cents while Deltapine held at 53.5 cents. Ultimately, the FM 1845 field made $692 an acre and the DP 0935 made $648.

Bottom line, Burmester says, is what growers already know: cotton can’t be grown cheaply; and what they don't want to admit: in the age of resistant weeds, hooded systems must be used at layby.

Pencil In Performance Plus

Monsanto programs offers rebate for weed resistance management programs. By Pam Golden

Before Roundup hit the fields, cotton growers routinely used residual herbicide to control weeds.

After Roundup arrived,
University of Tennessee Extension Weed Scientist Larry Steckel says, it was just too easy to load up the glyphosate and roll.

“That worked really well until about 2003,” Steckel says.

That’s when
Tennessee first started its battle with glyphosate-resistant marestail. Today, some fields in Tennessee are battle resistant marestail and resistant Palmer amaranth.

With the Palmer amaranth, they and their southern neighbors can get a little help from Monsanto through Roundup Ready Cotton Performance Plus. Cotton growers in the
Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and the Missouri Bootheel are eligible to participate.

“The products that are included in Roundup Ready Cotton Performance Plus offer farmers an incentive to work with experts to create an optimal weed control program,” says Weed Resistant Technical Development Manager Rick Cole. “It helps get the use of residuals back in their mind.”

Through Performance Plus, growers can get up to $12.50 per acre in 2010 in the Mid-South and Southeast.  Some of the chemistries available under the rebate program are: pre-emerge and layby - Valor, Reflex, Diuron and Cotoran; early post - Dual Magnum. 

Monsanto is pushing for greater participation in 2009.

“If they haven’t collected their money in the past, we certainly want them to collect it in 2010,” Monsanto’s Janice Person says. “It really does help growers put into practice what academics already are encouraging them to do.”