June 18, 2014

University of Missouri research confirms Entira’s insight on growers’ perceptions about herbicide tolerance

by Barney Bernstein, Senior Associate, Entira

There’s no doubt herbicide resistance is on top of growers’ minds these days. Earlier this year, Entira wrapped up a market research study that pointed to herbicide resistance as a growing concern for soybean farmers, and now there’s data from university research to back it up.

In April, the University of Missouri-Division of Plant Sciences released a weed resistance study indicating herbicide resistant weeds are becoming a greater issue for farmers. The paper, written by John Schultz and Kevin Bradley, reveals waterhemp populations in the state of Missouri are resistant to a number of different herbicide modes of action.

While this is not necessarily good news, Entira was pleased with these findings because they reinforced what we had recently uncovered in our own research. And as an industry, the more research and data we have to support a theory, the better chance we’ll have to find innovative solutions.

Entira’s study titled, “Soybean Herbicide Traits: What do Growers Want in a Complex Marketplace?” investigated the herbicide resistant weed issues facing soybean growers across the country and how these new pressures affect growers’ interest in new herbicide resistant soybean systems.

We set out to do this research upon an understanding that weed resistance issues were forcing many growers to revert back to herbicide strategies from the 1990s. While several companies are in the final stages of product development and regulatory reviews for additional traits—either stacked traits with the glyphosate tolerant production system, or alternatives to that system—these new options for managing weeds and boosting productivity will also add several layers of complexity for growers and agribusinesses.

What the University of Missouri study reveals, and what our research corroborates, is that this is a real issue for Midwestern farmers with potentially devastating consequences. It’s a very real issue, and one that will require growers to make some very complex decisions in the not-too-distant future. Our study dug deeper into what will drive growers’ decision making. How is weed resistance factoring in to growers’ management practices now? Will their decision making process change as new options come on the market? The qualitative interviews Entira conducted clearly revealed growers’ concerns about the lack of new modes of action vs. developing soybeans with resistance to old herbicides that already have resistance issues.

Farmers are definitely concerned—they’re concerned about managing herbicide resistant weeds if they have them, or keeping them off the farm if they don’t. If not managed properly, it’s only a matter of time before those weeds show up in their field. They’re looking at their operations and trying to understand how tools in development will be deployed, and how they will affect their production costs and their yields. Convenience is another big concern—that is, how easy will they be to use in their operations? Farmers also expressed concerns about drift: Will they need more custom application? Yet another concern was the lack of new modes of action to help them manage weeds. Our study also provides a view of herbicide costs in beans and some indication of the value growers place on the new herbicide tolerant soybean systems.

Our herbicide resistance study was one of the latest in a series of multi-client studies administered by Entira in collaboration with agribusiness clients interested in exploring market forces that directly impact their business. By subscribing to the study, partner companies provide direction as we formulate the research plan, including the chance to incorporate proprietary questions that are most important to them. We completed this study in April, but a summary of the non-proprietary results is available to non-participating organizations. For pricing and more information about the soybean herbicide trait study, contact Barney Bernstein at 919.830.6527.