There is no pipeline full of new herbicides headed your way to stem the growing problem of weeds resistant to glyphosate or any other herbicide for that matter.

However, representatives of the major chemical companies developing new cotton varieties told growers and others at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in Atlanta that they are developing new varieties resistant to a trio of older herbicides.

The final results will likely be varieties from different companies resistant to an alphabet soup of herbicides; 2, 4-D, dicamba and HPPD-inhibitors.

Two of those, 2, 4-D and dicamba, are bad environmental actors with histories of volatility, unwanted drift and odor issues. Companies are working to re-formulate those products to work with the new herbicide resistant cottons.

Representatives of Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences/Phytogen and Monsanto readily admitted during an industry update that rapidly growing glyphosate-resistant weeds like pigweed, marestail and others are problematic. However, none are abandoning glyphosate-resistance in new varieties.

“There are 300 weeds glyphosate still controls. It is the cornerstone (of weed control) in all crops,” said Monsanto’s Ty Vaughn.

However, Monsanto’s Roundup is no longer the silver bullet it once was. No single mode of action will do the job, Vaughn acknowledged.

“We need to be thinking in different ways to control weeds,” Vaughn said. Specifically weed burn down before planting; after planting/post directed herbicide use; rescue treatments as needed; and a return to residual herbicides.

In fact, Bayer CropScience is getting into the glyphosate-resistant game by offering new FiberMax GlyTol cottons for the first time this season, company representative Walt Mullin said. He called this new proprietary Bayer trait technology an “alternative” to using glyphosate “without obligation of buying a specific brand of glyphosate.” Bayer is targeting the West Texas market with commercial, sizeable quantities of FiberMax 9101GT and FiberMax  9103 GT. There also will be limited supplies of another GlyTol FM 2011GT for the Southwest.

Bayer is going even farther by combining its new generic glyphosate resistance trait with its Liberty Link (Ignite resistance) trait in FiberMax and Stoneville cotton varieties, according to Walt Mullin of Bayer. “Small quantities” of this double stack herbicide resistance package will be available this season in FiberMax FM 9250GL, the first cotton variety available with full tolerance to both glyphosate and Ignite herbicides.

Mullin said Bayer CropScience will also offer varieties in the future with the two herbicide traits, GlyTol and Liberty Link plus Bollgard II.

Bayer is also developing HPPD-inhibitor resistance traits in cotton. This, Mullin said, will allow growers to control pigweed in its later growth states (10 to 12 inches tall). This is several years down the road.

Mullin said Bayer also has either biotech or molecular breeding programs in developing varieties that are nematode resistant, insect resistant as well as having improved fiber and yield enhancement traits.

Bio-engineered fibers

Bio-engineered fibers from Bayer are targeting changing the polarity of the cotton fibers. This would make it easier to dye cottons with less dye. It would make the dyeing process in the mill “more environmentally friendly“ with fewer chemicals needed.

Many of Dow AgroSciences Phytogen cotton varieties already have Roundup Flex traits. Joel Faircloth, Phytogen cotton development specialist, said his company will attack the growing glyphosate resistance problem with a 2,4-D gene trait in new Phytogen cottons. It will be stacked with the Roundup Flex gene as well as a glufosinate-resistant gene, giving some Phytogen cotton resistance to three different post emergence cotton herbicides.

Dow AgroSciences has applied for a federal registration for the new 2, 4-D formulation to reduce volatility, odor and drift potential.

“This is very exciting new technology,” he said.

It will be commercialized for corn in 2013; soybeans in 2015; and cotton in 2015 or 2016, according to Faircloth.

Dow AgroSciences is also developing new Phytogen varieties with WideStrike III technology and Syngenta’s Vip3A protein for insect control.

Faircloth said Phytogen has “a lot of new varieties in pipeline” that will continue bring Acala fiber quality into the upland market. Phytogen is the only major seed company in the San Joaquin Valley where Acala cotton is now grown.

Monsanto is hanging its hat on dicamba and glufosinate for its strategy to control glyphosate-resistant weeds, according Vaughn. It will be four or five years before the three-way mix will be deregulated, estimated Vaughn.

Vaughn admitted diacamba has a bad reputation for drift, and Monsanto is working with BASF to develop a new formulation to reduce offsite movement of the post emergence herbicide.

Monsanto is also ramping up its nematode resistance breeding program in the wake of the loss of Temik.

“We have been working for several years on reniform and root-knot nematode resistance and are getting closer in the development stage,” he said.

Vaughn admitted the development of Bollgard III technology is “a little bit redundant,” but he defended its introduction by saying it broadens the lepidopterous pest control spectrum, particularly late season worms like fall armyworms.

Bollard III also “extends the durability” of Monsanto’s Bt technology franchise and will help avoid insect resistance.

With the control of worm pests using Bt, plant bugs/lygus have emerged as major cotton pests. Vaughn said Cotton Belt entomologists are working on new ways to measure thresholds to hopefully reduce sprays. “The biotech solution to plant bug control is in the future,” said Vaughn. However, he did say early development had produced a 10 percent reduction in boll drop. For now, however, growers will continue to rely on chemistry to control plant bugs.

Stress tolerance to bolster water-use efficient cotton is also a goal of Monsanto’s biotech efforts. He expects Monsanto to have a biotech stress solution for the dryland corn market in the next few years. From that, cotton can piggyback on the technology to reduce cotton’s water use.

hcline@farmpress.com