I continue to get a lot of questions about LibertyLink soybeans. A lot has been written about the technology lately and there appears to be a lot of grower interest.

We have been at a weed control technology standstill since the introduction of Roundup Ready and the weeds are catching up. It was very predictable from the beginning that Roundup Ready would put a damper on new herbicide chemistry development in industry. Because of this, new technology is going to come in the form of traits.

In my opinion, the introduction of the LibertyLink/Ignite herbicide technology into the market is a big step forward. It will provide a broad-spectrum over-the-top alternative to Roundup Ready and glyphosate.

The Liberty Link/Ignite technology has been cleared in the United States for some time. It was announced earlier in the summer that clearance had been obtained in China. More recently it was announced that regulatory clearance had been granted in the EU, paving the way for the launch of the technology in 2009.

In anticipation of this launch, there has been a significant seed production program in Arkansas in 2008. I have been able to observe most of the seed production fields this summer and make weed control recommendations in them. This has helped me get back up to speed on weed control with Ignite — I had not worked with it in several years.

All of my training and experience is in how to kill weeds. I am not a very good visual estimator of yields and do not claim to be an expert on picking varieties. However, the soybeans in the seed production fields I have observed look good and it appears the variety will yield well. Recent conditions have been very good for good seed quality.

From a weed control standpoint, controlling weeds with Ignite in LibertyLink soybeans will be very similar to controlling weeds in Roundup Ready soybeans. Like glyphosate, Ignite is a very broad-spectrum herbicide that does not have a lot of “holes” in it.

Compared to glyphosate, it is actually better on some weeds such as the morningglories, smartweed, hemp sesbania (coffeebean) and jointvetch (indigo).

Most would rate it somewhat weaker than glyphosate across the board on grasses and glyphosate-susceptible pigweeds.

I was very pleased this summer, however, at the level of grass activity it had and also with the control of Palmer amaranth when it is applied early.

One of the first places growers are looking to use the LibertyLink soybeans will be for control of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Bob Scott, weed scientist with the University of Arkansas, has conducted extensive research on Palmer amaranth the past two years and Ignite has provided excellent control when applied early.

I hope growers will look beyond the resistant pigweed fields with this technology. Some may say, “I don’t have a pigweed problem or a resistant pigweed problem, so where does it fit?” I think that is actually one of the best situations for the technology. The best way to manage a resistance problem is to never get it. The key to keeping herbicide resistance somebody else’s problem is to rotate crops and herbicide systems.

While resistant Palmer amaranth is not currently a big problem in a rice rotation, rotating LibertyLink and Roundup Ready soybeans with Clearfield and conventional rice gives you a very powerful resistance management tool from both a soybean and rice standpoint.

The University of Arkansas weed group recently met and added the LibertyLink/Ignite system to the recommendations for 2009. How quickly the technology can ramp up will depend on seed production. The folks involved in seed production feel the initial varieties will be good and current breeding efforts will bring more variety choices to the market quickly.

I am a big fan of new technology and look forward to writing more on the subject this fall and winter.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com