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1997 Outlook for Engineered Soybeans

Crop and Soil Environmental News, February 1997

Charles Hagedorn,
Extension Biotechnology Specialist

As a companion article to the one on the 1997 cotton outlook, here is a description of what to expect with engineered soybeans in 1997-and beyond.

Roundup Ready Soybeans

Roundup Ready soybeans, introduced in 1996, contain built-in resistance to postemergence applications of glyphosate, and allow control of a broad spectrum of weeds and grasses from crop emergence through full flowering. The Roundup Ready gene increases a crop's amount of EPSP synthase, an enzyme essential to plant growth but inhibited by glyphosate. Growers must sign a license agreement to apply only Roundup Ultra, pay a $5-per-bag technology fee, and not plant bin-run seed. Special care must be taken to mitigate drift and apply Roundup only to resistant fields. About 8 million acres are expected to be planted in 1997. Some yield reductions in RR-beans have been reported, especially in the Mid-West, but such reports are not consistent. Monsanto is in a position to control approximately 80% of the Roundup Ready market.

STS Soybeans

Introduced in 1993, sulfonylurea-tolerant soybeans (STS) are traditionally bred to withstand over-the-top applications of such herbicides as Classic, Pinnacle, Reliance, Synchrony, and Concert. A wide variety of problem broadleaf weeds can be sprayed and controlled from the first trifoliate up to 60 days prior to harvest. STS soybeans carry the Als1 gene, which enhances the variety's natural tolerance to sulfonylurea. About 6 to 8 million acres are expected to be planted in 1997, and Asgrow holds approximately 50% market share. Yields are comparable to or higher (an average of 2 to 3 bushels per acre) than traditional varieties.

Other Soybean Technologies

Other traits will be 'stacked' into the major soybean lines now available. For instance, in 1997 Pioneer expects to have Roundup Ready soybeans with nematode cyst resistance, and Asgrow plans to introduce two new Roundup Ready traits. The Liberty Link trait likely will be extended to soybeans by 1998, probably with even better weed control than in corn because soybeans canopy more quickly. Varieties developed for specific feed, food, and industrial uses - with such traits as high oil and high protein-are in the works. At Pioneer, research into animal nutrition will be a key emphasis over the next several years.

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