The recent announcement that South Korea would accept imported LibertyLink soybeans should help remove farmers’ hesitancy to embrace the technology.

Consultants and weed scientists, well aware that the Mid-South’s glyphosate-resistant weed range is expanding at an alarming pace, certainly hope that’s the case.

“There’s been a lot of reluctance expressed as we talked about LibertyLink in county meetings this spring,” says Bob Scott, Arkansas Extension weed specialist and Delta Farm Press contributor. “At the time, the South Korean decision (Korea approves LibertyLink soybeans imports) hadn’t been made and that was a sword hanging over the technology.

“I was actually at a meeting where a rep (of a large grain elevator) stood up and said, ‘We will not be buying (LibertyLink beans).’ That made farmers even more nervous. However, as far as I know, all those concerns have now been addressed. With the acceptance from South Korea, everything should be on go.”

(Editor’s note: Delta Farm Press contacted several elevator companies to see if LibertyLink soybeans would be accepted. All said they would be.)

Ken Smith heard much the same at winter meetings.

“Farmers don’t want anything else to worry about,” says the Arkansas Extension weed scientist based in Monticello, Ark. “They’ve got too many worries as it is: marketing issues, financing issues, weed control issues, fertilizer issues, farm program issues and on it goes. During meetings, farmers were saying, ‘I don’t want anything else to deal with. Why take on LibertyLink beans if I’m not 100 percent sure they’ll be accepted?’ Of course, that’s not a concern now.”

On the flip-side, some farmers were destined to try LibertyLink soybeans no matter what. That’s because glyphosate-resistant pigweed has already nearly run them out of the field.

“Farmers should really consider LibertyLink in fields where pigweeds are problematic,” says Smith. “That’s especially true for beans planted in May, when rainfall becomes less of a sure thing.

“We’re currently in a situation in Arkansas where we don’t need to be planting soybeans or cotton without some sort of soil residual. There are 600,000-plus acres of soybean and cotton ground that are infested with resistant pigweed. That’s a serious problem.”

Ignite

Many growers are already familiar with Bayer’s Ignite, the herbicide used in conjunction with the LibertyLink technology. “It’s definitely different from glyphosate and requires a bit of a learning curve,” says Scott. “Generally, Ignite isn’t as a good on grasses as glyphosate. But Ignite may be a bit better on some of the broadleaves.”

Ignite has also been used frequently as a burndown. “We’ve used it to battle glyphosate-resistant horseweed. The results of Ignite as a burndown have been mixed. One of the reasons, I think, is Ignite is a temperature-sensitive product. It likes warmer weather, temperatures above 70 degrees. Actually, the hotter it is the better Ignite usually works.”

A lot of growers have used Ignite in early cotton or in a burndown and “haven’t seen the same good results we’ve seen in later soybeans that were planted in warmer temperatures. So, if growers try Ignite outside the early cold they may be surprised at how well it works.”

Yield

What about yields in LibertyLink soybean varieties?

“We’ve looked at some different varieties to get a feel for how LibertyLink traits would do yield-wise,” says Smith. “I didn’t want to recommend a program involving LibertyLink without seeing the technology in action … wasn’t interested in stepping out on a limb without knowing as much as possible.

“Frankly, some of the LibertyLink cotton varieties haven’t performed quite as well as others in the Mid-South. I’m confident that will change, but that’s one of the reasons why farmers weren’t jumping into the LibertyLink soybeans immediately. That was my initial reaction, as well. I wanted to see that the LibertyLink soybean varieties could perform well.”

Now, yield-lag worries appear overblown. Both Scott and Smith say LibertyLink soybeans have done well in trials.

“LibertyLink varieties were put in with other varieties last year and they all looked pretty much the same,” says Scott. “The LibertyLink varieties yielded comparable amounts to the Roundup Ready varieties. That alleviated a lot of apprehension. To me, the LibertyLink technology has yielded well, the weed control has been solid and the system has proven workable. This is the closest thing available as a replacement for Roundup Ready soybeans.”

Last year, in a variety of conditions in Arkansas trials, the LibertyLink varieties yielded from 40 to nearly 80 bushels per acre. The varieties were planted in conditions from dryland to heavily irrigated ground.

“I can say with good certainty that there’s no yield drag associated with the LibertyLink trait,” says Smith. “It will be nice to have these varieties in university trials for a couple of years so we can make better recommendations. But preliminarily, they appear to have fine yield potential.”

Weed resistance

Following the overwhelming adoption of the Roundup Ready technology, Arkansas now has five confirmed glyphosate-resistant weeds. Researchers are constantly on the lookout for the next resistant weed to pop up and for new populations of already resistant weeds.

Their search is not short of candidates, especially in areas where growers insist on managing entire farms using a Roundup Ready protocol. Doing so “makes life easier in the short run,” says Scott. “They don’t have to worry about cleaning out spray rigs between fields and other convenient things. But that mindset is hindering efforts to prevent weed resistance. Change isn’t always easy.

“Growers tell me, ‘Man, I’d hate to plant 1,000 acres of Roundup Ready beans and another 200 acres of LibertyLink beans that have to be managed separately.’ But that’s the reality we’re in and we need these rotational options.”

If Mother Nature plays by the rules, Smith says glyphosate-resistant pigweeds in Roundup Ready soybeans can be controlled. But sometimes, “she has her own set of rules. You know, it doesn’t rain when I put out a pre-emerge herbicide and it isn’t activated. If that happens, I don’t have many alternatives.”

That isn’t as true in a LibertyLink system.

“I can come back on top of the un-activated pre-emerge with an application of Ignite. That’ll get the field back to bare ground even after the beans have come up. That will provide time for residuals to get activated and work.”

In a perfect world, is Ignite and LibertyLink better than Roundup Ready? “No,” says Smith. “But we don’t live in a perfect world and these biological systems keep changing on us.

“I don’t know how quickly the LibertyLink technology will be adopted, but I’m confident it will be. It has merit and will make a contribution to Mid-South agriculture.”

For more, see LibertyLink.

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com