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New DuPont/Pioneer crop technology inches closer to marketplace

Agriculture.com Staff 07/16/2007 @ 8:06am

DuPont Crop Protection and its seed business partner, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., said last week that they are a step closer to introducing a new generation of crop weed control technology to the marketplace.

That technology is called Optimum GAT, and you will be able to buy it in your Pioneer soybean seed for the 2009 crop season, and in corn by 2010.

Optimum GAT combines tolerance to two herbicide classes in one package. Plants will be tolerant to glyphosate, so you can use that herbicide on your crops much as you do now with Roundup Ready programs. It will also be tolerant to a broad range of ALS herbicides, meaning they can be mixed with the glyphosate product and applied at the same time. (GAT stands for "Glyphosate ALS Tolerance").

At a field day late last week at a DuPont research facility near Rochelle, Illinois, DuPont and Pioneer personnel showed several dozen corn and soybean test plots where Optimum GAT plants were growing next to Roundup Ready plots and control plots with no herbicides. Each of the Optimum GAT plots were testing a specific combination herbicide mix that combined glyphosate with an ALS herbicide.

The DuPont researchers call these combinations "concept programs," and at this stage of development, they won't reveal the exact chemistry being tested. They say they are doing similar tests at hundreds of locations across the Corn Belt this summer in an attempt to come up with the best herbicide combinations for various growing regions, soil types, and weed profiles.

By the time the new Optimum GAT crops are released two and three years down the road, DuPont expects to have narrowed the concept programs down to two or three for both corn and soybeans that they will name, and recommend to growers.

"The seed and chemistry will be introduced in parallel," said Mark Wolters, seed systems manager for DuPont Crop Protection.

The key benefit of the new technology, said Wolters, is that it will expand weed control options. "It will give people choices they’ve never had before," he says. "It's all about flexibility."

Being able to add the ALS herbicide with glyphosate may let a farmer apply the herbicide combination earlier in the season, and give residual weed control activity that isn't available in a glyphosate-only program. Or it may let a farmer target specific weeds that show resistance to glyphosate-only programs.

The companies also say they expect yield advantages over other programs due to reduced yield drag. In soybeans, Pioneer studies have shown a five-percent yield bump with the Optimum GAT technology, said Tracy Linbo, senior marketing manager for Optimum GAT. And, thanks to a new "gene shuffling" technology that has been used in the development of the crops, there is an improved crop safety advantage as the plants are better able to detoxify the glyphosate.

DuPont expects to have Optimum GAT crops cleared for export to all major markets by the time the products are launched. At this stage, DuPont and Pioneer will only say that the new technology will be "competitively priced" to farmers when it is introduced.

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