Enlist Soybean Gains China Approval: Some Thoughts

The news this week was the China approval of Enlist E3 soybeans (soybeans tolerant to glufosinate, glyphosate and 2,4-D) for import.  China also approved the import of Syngenta’s MGI soybeans.  Those soybeans are tolerant to Callisto, glufosinate and Balance herbicides. My understanding is this MGI trait in soybeans still needs EU approval so unlike the Enlist E3 soybeans they will not be offered for sale this year.

This news would signal that in 2019 we will most likely have at least some Enlist E3 soybeans planted in Tennessee. Those folks who plant Enlist cotton will likely embrace Enlist soybeans so they do not have to switch herbicide trait platforms.   Some growers  reported last year that they leaned toward planting Enlist cotton but elected not to because they were reluctant to have to manage two different herbicide trait platforms as they moved from spraying their cotton to spraying their soybeans. As of now, farmers have the option to run the same trait platform, either all Xtend or all Enlist, in cotton and soybean.

Now that Enlist soybeans and Liberty Link GT27 soybeans (tolerant to Liberty and glyphosate) will be planted in Tennessee I think we can rest assured there will be even more of a patchwork of different trait platform crops scattered across the countryside than what we saw in 2018.  As a result, stewardship will be even more critical in 2019.

In 2017 there were about 20,000 acres of Enlist cotton planted in Tennessee. From a stewardship standpoint the results were very good with almost no issues with off-target Enlist-Duo. This was in stark contrast to Xtend crops where many applicators struggled to keep dicamba in the field resulting in the TDA fielding 136 official complaints.

In 2018, the stewardship of Enlist One was not as good as in 2017.  Extension ran a number of calls where that herbicide drifted out of an Enlist cotton field and injured Xtend cotton. In all the cases I walked it appeared the applicators got over confident on the lack of drift in 2017 and pushed the envelope on applications in 2018.  Most notably, off-target movement occurred due to spraying at twilight into an inversion or on windy days with the wind going right toward Xtend cotton.

On the other hand, there were fewer dicamba drift complaints reported to Extension in 2018 on soybean. This I believe was partially due to the enhanced training and primarily due to greater than 90% adoption of Xtend traited soybean. The TDA had roughly 50 official complaints related to dicamba and most of them where on specialty crops, homeowner gardens and trees.   I walked a number of these calls and some looked to be from applicator error while others appeared to move out of the field via volatility hours after the sprayer had left the field.

In 2019, there will be Enlist E3 soybeans, Liberty Link GT27 soybeans, Liberty Link, Roundup Ready and conventional soybeans planted.  All of these soybean trait platforms have one thing in common. They are extremely sensitive to dicamba drift.  In cotton we will be about 70 to 75% Xtend cotton and most of the rest will be Enlist cotton.  We all know how sensitive cotton is to 2,4-D drift.

In 2019 applicators will have to do the best possible job applying herbicides to all these different trait platforms in soybean and cotton.  This will ultimately come down to them making good decisions.  In many cases the best decision will be to NOT spray either a dicamba or 2,4-D product if there are sensitive crops/vegetation nearby.

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