Indiana-Based Company Still on Target with Herbicide Technology

Dow AgroSciences looks three years down the road for launch.

Published on: Jan 23, 2009

Weed management in both corn and soybeans could change dramatically in the next five years. If it does, Dow AgroSciences, an Indianapolis-based company, one of the few major players left in the chemical and plant trait business, will likely be a major player.

Glenn Nice, Purdue university weed control specialist, says that even though their breakthrough technology is 3 and 4 years away, it’s worth noting and watching through various stages of development. The company calls their developments DHT products, for Dow Herbicide Tolerant technology.

The first candidate in the pipeline will be SmartStax corn with a DHT trait that makes it possible to spray 2,4-D over corn without risk of injury. While 2,4-D is labeled for corn now, many hybrids are so sensitive that most agronomists shy away from recommending it for broadleaf control unless there is no viable alternative. Note that SmartStax hybrids are expected to appear on the market before then. The first hybrids that are released will not have the DHT trait included, since it’s still under development and must yet move through the regulatory process.

By 2013 Dow AgroSciences hopes to have DHT traits in soybeans. That would allow farmers to do something they’ve never been able to do before- spray 2,4-D with soybeans and do it safely, and would broaden the window for broadleaf weed control. Part of the strategy is to provide options to Roundup (glyphosate), including herbicides with other modes of action to complement glyphosate programs. The relatively rapid development of certain resistant weeds to glyphosate is making people aware that alternatives are needed to slow down the increase in resistance. Having two modes of action is one way tot delay the timeline for development of glyphosate- resistant weeds.

Meanwhile, Monsanto Company, a partner with Dow AgroSciences on SmartStax hybrids, is moving their own soybean with growth regulator tolerance through the system. Their goal is developing dicamba-tolerant soybeans that can be sprayed with the herbicide, which is the active ingredient in Banvel and several other similar brand name products. The time line for development and launch of dicamba- tolerant soybeans is not yet firm.

Having some time before these traits allowing growth regulator herbicides to be used more widely has a built-in advantage, Nice adds. It gives the companies time to develop strategies for reducing drift and risk of crop injury. When growth regulators were more widely used in the past, one of the primary disadvantages was the potential for drift, especially if any wind speed at all occurred during application.

Incidents last year reminded farmers and company personnel that drift will still be an issue. Tomato growers, including Scott Smith, Tipton County, reported their fields next to neighboring soybean fields were damaged in some cases by drift of these types of products.

Word is that companies are actively working on remedies that will reduce the risk of injury to sensitive crops in neighboring fields. “Drift and volatility issues will still be important, with the increased use of growth regulators,” Nice observes. Both companies are working on formulations and timing of applications to reduce possible risks, he concludes.