Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® in 2017

By John Dietz

Many farmers planted Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans for the first time this year. A seed grower in Manitoba and another in Saskatchewan shared their thoughts as spraying season was about to begin. 

In mid to late May on the eastern Prairies, a few thousand fields were sown to soybeans. Some seed growers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan committed half of their soybean acres to the new dicamba-tolerant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybean system.   

In mid June, it was time to spray weeds. The Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybean genetics from Monsanto, with tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba, offered promise of new weed control convenience. 

Northwest of Winnipeg a few minutes, near Grosse Isle, seed grower Rick Rutherford was heavily committed to the dicamba option, for his growers.  

More than 450 km west, at Corning (about 40 minutes south of Grenfell), seed grower Brent McCarthy was anticipating a burndown of Roundup Ready canola volunteers in his newest soybeans. Both seed producers have contracts with NorthStar Genetics as well as other companies.

Manitoba grower
Rutherford has been growing soybeans for 18 years. He plants about 1,500 acres of seed soybeans. He has three varieties of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® beans planted on 700 acres for 2017 and hopes for a “good average” yield in the low 40s, like he had in 2016. 

Rutherford does precision planting with a row crop planter on 20-inch spacing. He’s had the planter for seven seasons, and uses it for both corn and soybeans. He plants the beans at 165,000 plants per acre. 

All of Rutherford’s soybeans went into the ground between May 10 and May 17. They were on canola, barley, or wheat stubble. He also grows corn, peas, and oats. 

“We had ideal seeding conditions this spring,” Rutherford says. “We had a couple shots of moisture through seeding. Everything is up now and well-emerged. Up until now we’ve had pretty good conditions.”

Pre-emergence, all the soybean fields were sprayed with a tank mix of Roundup and Heat. Mixed with glyphosate, the BASF product Heat (with Kixor technology) takes out the resistant volunteer canola that has emerged, as well as resistant types of kochia and wild mustard. 

That application, about four weeks earlier, wiped the field clean for soybeans. Now, Rutherford was about ready for the second visit. The Roundup Ready 2 lines would be protected with glyphosate; the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® system would be protected with a combination of glyphosate and dicamba (Banvel).    

Cautious? Definitely.

“It’s a contractual obligation, so we have to do it that way for seed production, but you’re dealing with Banvel and it likes to kill lots of other things than weeds,” Rutherford says.

“The most sensitive crop we’re dealing with here is non-dicamba soybeans. It takes as little as one one-hundredth of the rate to kill a non-dicamba Roundup Ready soybean. They are extremely, extremely sensitive to dicamba. I wish the weeds were that sensitive,” he says. 

Watching wind direction would be top priority the day of application. Sprayer cleanup would be a close second. 

“Sprayer cleanup takes a lot of care. It’s huge. A lot of the issues come with improper sprayer cleanout. We definitely triple rinse, then take out and clean the filters after we rinse. Then, we plan on going into a wheat crop. If there is a little residue of dicamba, wheat can take it. I just have to be very careful.”

As a business, the south Interlake seed farm is committing so much to the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® system because there’s a market for it. 

“That’s where the technology is going. We promote it to the people who have kochia. We really don’t have any kochia on our farm at present, but that’s probably the main weed in our area and it can blow onto a farm pretty easily. Going forward, any yield advances you see probably will have the dicamba trait. That’s where the breeding is concentrated now. So, as weed resistance becomes a bigger issue here, you definitely want the tool in your toolbox,” Rutherford says.  

Saskatchewan grower
McCarthy has been growing soybeans for five years in southeastern Saskatchewan. He had 450 acres of seed soybeans last year and has “a tad over” 900 acres of soybeans in 2017. That includes 160 acres of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® beans. 

He had to wait a dozen years for earlier maturing, good yielding soybean varieties to become available. Now they are, and he’s into it. 

“We go for the earliest we can get,” McCarthy says. “We have grown some up to 2400 heat units, with good success, but we’re looking for 2200 and 2300 heat units to overcome our hurdles.”

The second-generation family seed farm had one of its best crops in 2016, McCarthy says. 

“It was just the right combination of factors and good for everything. The harvest was long, but we did get it in the bin. Generally 50 to 70 percent of our acres will be for seed production. The soybeans had lots of heat, lots of moisture, and our highest yield so far. They averaged 38 bushels to the acre.”

McCarthy puts in his soybeans with a Bourgault Paralink seeding system on 10-inch row spacing. He plants the beans at 230,000 plants per acre. 

All of McCarthy’s soybeans went into the ground on May 20 to 23, mostly on wheat stubble. He also has canola, peas, lentils, and durum this year. 

“Seeding conditions were very good. We did have a -5 frost the morning we were going to start seeding, so we waited about three days, then fired up. We seeded all our beans over a five-day window, into conditions a little drier than we are used to. We dried out fairly quick over the spring, so we did plant the beans a little deeper, about an inch and a quarter.”

In the days that followed, McCarthy’s soybeans had “nice, even emergence” after a very good pre-burn application with Roundup and Heat herbicides.

“We’ve had a bit of rain since seeding. That perked them up and they look quite nice right now,” he said on June 14. “We will look at doing the first dicamba spray anytime now, whenever the wind goes down.”

McCarthy has farm and business reasons for going into the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® varieties. 

“We learned early that weed control is very important. The first couple years into soybeans, the volunteer Roundup Ready canola really kicked us. We still grow a lot of canola. We’ve learned a lot and we manage it better, but it’s still a problem. I think the Xtend may help us manage it a bit more,” he explained.

As a seed business, he has growers who are interested in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans. They will be visiting his variety test plots in July and August, asking questions. The plots will include the new NSC StarCity RR2X variety from NorthStar Genetics.

Most of his growers are just getting used to the idea of producing soybeans, but he has “a handful” who are ready to learn a few more things so they can be more successful with the new crop. 

“There’s always a hope that you can make the weed control easier,” McCarthy says. 

“Volunteer canola has been one of our problem weeds, but kochia is certainly here and, if it stays dry, it’s going to move up to the top of the list. Kochia is in a lot of areas. If the dicamba part of this helps with controlling kochia, it’s got a big advantage for growers.”

We’ll check in with Rick Rutherford and Brent McCarthy to see how their Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® varieties perform this season, and you can read all about it in our December issue.