Bringing herbicide tolerance to sorghum is something growers have been looking for over the past two decades.
Justin Weinheimer, crop improvement director for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the National Sorghum Producers, said since the early 2000s, universities and sorghum seed companies have been trying to bring products to the market.
“Conceptually it’s been something that sorghum farmers have wanted for a long time,” he said.
From the checkoff standpoint, aiding the public and private sectors development of herbicide tolerance is something they’ve worked on. USCP has funded numerous projects through the years.
“Anytime we sent out agronomic surveys on what farmers we’re looking for from a technology standpoint it consistently came back as the No. 1,” Weinheimer said.
In the next couple of years, sorghum growers will have the opportunity to have the choice of three different technologies for post emergence grass control. Several companies—Advanta/Alta, S&W Seed Company/ADAMA and Pioneer/Corteva have products making their way to the market place—some beginning this year.
“(It) really could be game changing in the fact that it is going to allow farmers who are struggling with grass control in sorghum to actually have an additional tool, which is something that the current toolbox is very limited,” Weinheimer said. “So really, when you look at it as a choice to have something else out in the field it is going to be significant from the agronomy side.”
“It’s not so much that the technology brings higher yields,” he said.“It’s more that it allows growers to control grass at an optimum time, which in turn protects yield potential.”
“(From a) bottom line standpoint, they should be more confident in stabilizing their bottom line, if not increasing it,” Weinheimer said.
Weinheimer said USCP and NSP both have working relationships with the companies developing these new technologies. USCP financially invested in the S&W project too.
Both sorghum groups have roles in helping bring these technologies forward. As for the NSP, Weinheimer said its role has been to work with the chemical registrants.
“To help provide the farmer’s voice, as it relates to the registration label for the chemical that would be applied for these products,” he said. “We have had some level of involvement in terms of providing that input on behalf of the farmer.”
Weinheimer expects the products to hit the market within the next few years, and their timelines depend on a number of factors, some out of the control of the developing companies, like regulations and statutes.
“I think most of these companies are pretty aggressive and coming out with a greater presence in the market this year and into the next couple growing seasons,” he said. “Some companies have either hybrid development to still do or some regulatory development, and both of those can take time.”
S&W Seed Company recently announced a collaboration with ADAMA on the development of a new sorghum herbicide-tolerant system. This collaboration is expected to bring innovation to sorghum growers and improve weed control and yields. S&W will provide the tolerant hybrids while ADAMA will handle the herbicides.
The new Double Team ACCase tolerance technology was developed by S&W in collaboration with USCP using traditional breeding non-GMO tissue culture.
“Historically, sorghum has lagged behind other major crops like corn, soybeans, and cotton in the application of novel technologies Don Panter, executive vice president, S&W said. “However, we look at sorghum as one of our key product lines and have prioritized our R&D efforts to bring this traditional breeding, non-GMO technology to U.S. sorghum growers in what we believe is record time.”
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S&W plans to bring their broad spectrum Double Team sorghum hybrids to the marketplace through its Sorghum Partners brand, and offering top-tier seed companies licenses to the Double Team system.
“We are very pleased to have an experienced global partner, ADAMA, to develop weed control systems and to support stewardship and grower education with us,” Panter said.
Steve Calhoun, vice president of research and development at S&W, said the development of these hybrids is important for sorghum.
“We believe this new herbicide tolerance technology will not only benefit current sorghum producers in weed control, but also bring sorghum back to water-limited acres where it is much more profitable than other crops like corn,” Calhoun said in a news release.
Leaders at ADAMA agreed, and said the collaboration between S&W and ADAMA is perfectly aligned with their mission.The collaboration between ADAMA and S&W will provide the first full-spectrum grass control option for sorghum growers.
“We are driven by listening and providing growers simple, straightforward solutions,” Jake Brodsgaard, CEO of ADAMA USA, said in a release. “This new cropping solution is expected to simplify crop management by providing sorghum growers with an effective and convenient weed management system to get the most from every production acre.”
S&W and ADAMA have plans for extensive field trials in 2020, to further verify hybrid performance and crop selectivity. They are aiming to fine-tune the use of the Double Team sorghum cropping solution herbicides in an overall weed control system. Regulatory trials are also underway to obtain global approval for the technology and herbicide to facilitate grain export.
According to the release, both companies intend to provide a complete weed stewardship management system fully supported by a team of sales and technical service representatives to make a positive impact on today’s farmers and provide long-term sustainability.
While the Double Team sorghum cropping solution herbicide tolerance system is currently pending regulatory approval by the EPA, it is expected to be commercially available in limited quantities in the spring of 2021.
Globally, Advanta Seeds is a leader in crop breeding and genetics, and focuses on the development and modernization of sorghum in all markets. In the United States, Advanta Seeds uses its premium brand Alta Seeds to market their elite genetics. UPL is the parent company of Advanta Seeds, but also a world leader in supplying ag chemicals. UPL will serve as the exclusive companion chemical provider for the igrowth technology in the U.S. market.
U.S. Technology Development Manager for Advanta Zach Eder, said since both entities are part of the same company, it allows for excellent communication and a unified front to help support the technology and our producers.
“Using our global breeding program, genetic material was repeatedly screened throughout the process to select highly tolerant breeding lines,” Eder said. “Once the lines were identified each country sought the best chemistry for their local production systems.This method allowed us to create an herbicide tolerant hybrid that is a non-GMO and uses naturally occurring sorghum genetics.”
Control the weeds
In the Advanta product, the technology makes their sorghum tolerant to the imidazolinone herbicide group, allowing growers to use herbicide pre- and post-emergence for tough to control weeds in the sorghum cropping cycle. In the U.S. market the company will be utilizing the imazamox chemistry.
“This is unique among all of the proposed HT sorghum programs in research,” Eder said. “Imazamox provides grass and broadleaf control that will provide added value to the grower. This provides the broadest control spectrum, and the most flexible application window possible for growers.”
Eder said it will allow for maximum flexibility and allowing sorghum growers to control hard to control weeds in their sorghum.
“It’s going to give growers that may be not able to grow sorghum efficiently access to new acres and unlock that in those tough dry land regions,” he said. “As well as in some marginal ground for high dollar corn production.”
Stewardship and management is also an important part of a herbicide-tolerant system.
“As an industry, we have learned valuable lessons and best practices from the launch of multiple herbicide-tolerant crops,” Eder said. “Stewardship is vital to the longevity and success of any herbicide program.”
Guidelines on the labels will give specific instructions on the use of both hybrids and herbicides.
“The Advanta and UPL teams will be coordinating all stewardship activities together to help improve the grower experience and to promote a scientifically sound system,” Eder said. “It is important that the seed, chemical, and producer groups work together to make good decisions and keep the benefits of this program around for a long time.”
Eder and their team has worked hard to bring igrowth to the market—based on years of grower feedback and industry group interest.
“There will be a learning curve involved, but ultimately our team believes this is the first big step in modernizing the producer’s opinion of sorghum,” he said. “Advanta has shown the world why it is a leader in the sorghum world by bringing the first herbicide tolerant hybrids to the market, and successfully launching it on multiple continents.”
For producers in the U.S. who are looking at arid environments or marginal ground, or even a more sustainable way to stay in business, might consider igrowth sorghum as a new opportunity, Eder said.
“We are very excited to have seen the time that we’ve invested, the money we’ve invested, come to the market and let growers be able to access those acres that we feel really need to be on sorghum,” Eder said. “We feel that it’s a great option for growers out there. If this is something that has been hindering a grower, this will give them the opportunity to try and diversify their portfolio.”
Finally, Pioneer and Corteva have their own products coming to the market later in 2020. The Inzen technology is a new herbicide-tolerant sorghum, which allows use of an over-the-top herbicide.
LeAnn Larson, with CortevaAgriscience said their system is non-transgenic, ALS-tolerant technology that provides the flexibility to plant sorghum on acres previously limited by grass pressure, giving farmers greater choice when selecting a sorghum hybrid. ALS technology is a proven herbicide active ingredient that has been used in other crops for many years. The Inzen technology is in Phase 4 (pre-launch) of the CortevaAgriscience seed pipeline.
Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].