Monsanto to Release New Ag Roundup Formulation

Company says new recipe solves leaf damage problem in RRF varieties. Dan Crummett

Published on: May 18, 2005

With Roundup Ready Flex cotton sitting on the launching pad, Monsanto officials say they've discovered existing glyphosate formulations--including their own Roundup agricultural brands--have the potential to cause leaf injury when applied past the four-leaf stage in cotton.

To combat the leaf damage for RRF management, which allows applications past the traditional four-leaf stage of growth, Monsanto is preparing MON 3539 – to receive a commercial name later this year. The new formulation does not cause cotton leaf damage with applications throughout the growing season.

Monsanto's Roundup Marketing Manager Sarah Vacek looks at leaf damaged cotton sample treated with a "late" 2X rate application of glyphosate. In her other hand is a healthy sample treated with a 2X rate of MON 3539 a new formulation of glyphosate aimed at RRF cotton varieties.

While no data is available correlating the leaf damage noted with existing glyphosates and yield reductions, David Rhylander, Monsanto's Director of Traits, says growers using Roundup with Roundup Ready technology have "never seen leaf injury before, and we don't want them to see it with RRF. Our concern is, if the farmer sees leaf injury they will question our technology."

Monsanto anticipates having the new Roundup brand agricultural herbicides available to growers before the commercial launch of Roundup Ready Flex. MON 3539 is the only Monsanto herbicide currently labeled for these applications. (It will be available in 2005 exclusively for growers participating in field trials and seed production and is specifically formulated for use in RRF fields. It is NOT registered for sale or use in California.)

Fighting perceptions

When asked if a new formulation of glyphosate timed to coincide with the release of RRF varieties wouldn't be a red flag to critics of Monsanto who charge the company is trying to introduce proprietary chemicals for its new seed technology, Rhylander explained:

"That perception exists. However, we are making this technology broadly available to support grower choice and it will be offered at price points similar to today's products to earn grower business. The solution to leaf problems will be available through licensing agreements."

RRF traits are being incorporated by more than a half dozen seed companies, he adds.

Rob Ihrig, technical manager for cotton products with Monsanto, says, "The proof will be in the pudding. When our pricing structure is announced, we're confident farmers will not see it as predatory."

Rylander further explains Monsanto is now an agricultural company—only.

"With recent changes in the industry, Monsanto is primarily a 'seed and trait' company, completely dependent upon farmers and keeping farmers happy with products that offer them value. We want to give them the choices they demand and help them be efficient and profitable."

Ease of use and no surprises

"We want growers to have the best possible experience with Roundup Ready Flex cotton," says Sarah Vacek, Roundup Marketing Manager. "This technology will allow growers to spray Roundup herbicides registered for use throughout the cotton growing cycle.

"The development of MON 3539 reflects our continuing commitment to deliver benefits to growers," she explains. "As soon as the response (leaf damage) was confirmed, we initiated research to determine the cause and then to identify solutions. No one takes weed control and crop safety more seriously than Monsanto. And, we don't want farmers using RRF and seeing damage in their fields."