FORT WAYNE — Weed-free rows of corn and soybeans are becoming harder for local farmers to achieve due to growing plant resistance to herbicide. That’s why the local ag industry is watching the possible deregulation of genetically-modified seeds.
The United States Department of Agriculture is taking public comments on the proposed approval of modified corn and soybean seeds that would resist the herbicide 2-4, D. Dow Agri Science has asked for approval to release such seeds to the market, some of which have been test-grown in Elkhart County. Test seeds are destroyed and not marketed.
The genetically-modified seeds would allow farmers to spray the 2-4, D herbicide over the top of corn and soybeans to kill weeds that have become resistant to the popular glyphosate products.
“What has happened,” said Rod King of Goshen, an agronomist with Brodbeck Seeds, a subsidiary of Dow Agri Science, “is over time we have a few populations of weeds that are becoming resistant to Roundup. So that system that used to be the most failsafe, isn’t anymore.”
Roundup is Monsanto’s trade name for glyphosate, a herbicide developed in the 1970s, and used extensively by farmers worldwide to control weeds. The herbicide was so effective it changed farming. Farmers used to till their field to bury weeds before planting, but Roundup allowed farmers to go to no-till farming, which prevented soil erosion from wind and rain.
“2-4, D is going to help us greatly, particularly on some of the weeds that have become resistant to Roundup,” King said. “So, I wouldn’t say it is an alternative to Roundup. I would say it’s a companion to the Roundup system.”
According to King, Dow’s genetically-modified seeds will be marketed under the Enlist brand.
Genetically-modified seeds are nothing new. Most soybeans and corn planted in the United States have had a gene-splice to make them resistant to Roundup, according to The Associated Press. But many Americans don’t like the idea of gene-splices in seeds and the issue has become political.