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New soybean technology sprouts for spring planting

The Commodity Classic is always a time when agrimarketers tout their latest technologies to corn and soybean farmers.

Last year, DuPont and Pioneer Hi-Bred International discussed new glyphosate-tolerant technology that's coming down the pike. At the Commodity Classic, they gave it a name: Optimum GAT.

Pioneer and DuPont officials say Optimum GAT differs from current glyphosate technology. It has a glyphosate tolerant mechanism that binds with glyphosate and transforms it into a metabolite that does not harm the plant.

"The trait brings a different way of protecting the plant against the glyphosate," says Dean Oestreich, president of Pioneer.

Optimum GAT also features tolerance to ALS herbicides, including active ingredients in the sulfonylurea and imidazolinone families.

"It's a two-part system," adds Jim Collins, president of DuPont Crop Protection. "It features glyphosate tolerance as well as ALS tolerance, and that opens up some new choices for weed control."

Officials from the companies point out Optimum GAT will give growers multiple options of herbicides against difficult-to-control and glyphosate-resistant weeds. Weeds that have become difficult to control with current glyphosate technology include wild buckwheat, morningglories, waterhemp, lambsquarter, marestail and ragweeds.

"Today's glyphosate (tolerant) traits can hold back yields," says Oestreich. Not so with the Optimum GAT technology, he adds. This new Optimum GAT technology can bump yields by up to 5% over current glyphosate technology, he says.

The trait was created thought a process called gene shuffling, which is based on the principle of transforming traits with poor properties into traits of higher value. Officials of both companies expect gene shuffling to be used in bringing future products to market.

DuPont and Pioneer officials expect Optimum GAT for corn and soybeans to receive full U.S. registration by 2009. Steps taken between now and then include integrating the trait into Pioneer's product line, going through regulatory compliance, and ramping up seed production. "We will be considering opportunities to outlicense these traits to others, given acceptable agreements to do so," says Oestreich.

The Commodity Classic is always a time when agrimarketers tout their latest technologies to corn and soybean farmers.

Monsanto announced an expansion of its Vistive low-linolenic soybeans that it launched in 2005. Low linolenic soybean oils aim to replace trans fatty acids, which have been linked to coronary heart disease and strokes. In January 2006, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring companies to list trans fat content on its food labels.

Monsanto also announced the Double Crop Risk Protection program for soybean growers in Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. Farmers in these pilot states who double-crop Roundup Ready soybeans and have a complete soybean crop failure are eligible to receive a refund payment from Monsanto.

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