It's been said that trust is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. Each season, U.S. farmers place their trust in a number of partners to achieve success, from landowners to seed dealers, bankers to brokers. Not to mention, farmers must build trust with consumers.
There's an adage that "trust can take years to build and a moment to erode." Dicamba, arguably the most misunderstood herbicide technology to hit farm fields this decade, has been villainized by some in the press. Yet again this summer, U.S. soybean and cotton farmers are proving to be knowledgeable stewards of this technology, using it effectively to combat unprecedented weed pressure from adversaries like waterhemp (not to mention the 350 other weeds XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology, a restricted use pesticide, controls).1
"Dicamba has proven to be a valuable herbicide choice for several reasons," says Boyd Carey, Regional Agronomy Lead, Bayer. "It controls many tough broadleaf weeds, helps to control glyphosate-resistant weeds and provides up to 14 days of soil activity on certain small-seeded broadleaf weeds.2 It has the flexibility to be applied prior to planting all the way through crop emergence. It's a key component of an effective overall weed control system."
Illinois farmer Fred Helms, Texas farmer Mac Kutzenberger and Minnesota retailer Jeff Einck may be separated by hundreds of miles and may have vastly different soil conditions and unique weed challenges — but they all trust their fields to the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System and count themselves among those satisfied with the effective weed control it provides.
One-hundred-percent. That's the satisfaction level that Illinois farmer Fred Helms, who is also a DEKALB®/Asgrow® seed dealer, says he had with the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System last year, and the percentage of his soybean acres that are planted to Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans in 2019, his third year of planting them and using the system.
"We were extremely pleased with last season's harvest results, which we attribute to a winning combination of the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System and a great gift that Mother Nature gave us," he says. "The Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System not only provided us high-yielding genetics but also cleaner fields and the ability to relieve the competition of weeds from our soybean plants." Helms incorporates innovation into his herbicide management to help him align his practices with Mother Nature. Several seasons ago, he set up a weather station on his farm, which was linked with his team's phones to monitor conditions and alert them when conditions were right for application. Last season, he added the RRXtend Spray App to the mix. The tool allowed him to better anticipate changing weather conditions to manage application successfully.
"The biggest benefit the RRXtend Spray App gave us was detailing the inversion risk and timing when it occurred," he says. This year, he appreciates the enhanced functionality the app offers, including longer-term weather predictions.
Technology isn't the only factor in Helms' success; he says taking an early approach to weed control also set him up for high yield potential last season.
"I think the key to getting the weeds killed is to get them early, when they're little," he advises. "That way, the spray can penetrate down through the canopy and get to the weeds. It's all part of an early postemergence program and can be implemented by everybody in that early-season window."
This approach worked well for him in both 2017 and 2018. "We really have not had any resprays that we've needed to do," he says. "The system has worked that well."
For Helms, the payoff can be measured in more than yield — the effectiveness of the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System also earned him the continued trust of his community.
"I've seen smiles on the faces of many of my neighbors and customers," he says.
Cotton with XtendFlex® technology and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are planted on an estimated 60 million acres of U.S. farm fields this growing season — which is equal to the square footage of Illinois and Indiana combined. This broad adoption shows the need farmers have for the technology and the trust they place in the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System. The adoption of this technology has improved weed management, optimized the amount of herbicides needed to achieve weed control, and potentially lowered overall costs associated with keeping fields clean.
It's important to be good stewards of the technology to make sure that other, better traits are brought to fruition in the future.
Jeff Einck / Minnesota Retailer/Custom Applicator
It's important to be good stewards of the technology to make sure that other, better traits are brought to fruition in the future.
Down south, Mac Kutzenberger serves as a farm manager for both Terrell Farm and Songer Farm in the Brazos River Bottoms of Texas, located between College Station and Houston. He oversees a little under 5,000 acres divided among cotton, corn, grain sorghum and cattle. In 2019, he planted 3,500 acres of cotton with XtendFlex® technology.
U.S. cotton farmers have adopted the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System at a fast pace since it was introduced in 2016. Cotton with XtendFlex technology, tolerant to glyphosate, dicamba and glufosinate, was planted on 73% of U.S. cotton acres in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This wide adoption is a strong indication of the benefits cotton farmers experience with the system.
Prior to the approval of the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System for cotton, this region, like many others in the South, had developed several species of weeds that were resistant to glyphosate. Weed management was becoming costly and more difficult to achieve in cotton due to resistant pigweed and giant ragweed, to name a few.
"Cotton with XtendFlex technology has given us herbicide options to use that we did not have in the past, and it has resulted in improved weed control," Kutzenberger says. "Having the ability to use XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology, a restricted use pesticide, at burndown, as part of a pre-emerge residual program and in-crop, pretty much has proven itself. It's difficult to explain in words what we've experienced before, when we could not use dicamba in cotton, and today, when we can use it in cotton. The system is very crucial to our operation."
With three seasons of managing cotton with XtendFlex technology under his belt, Kutzenberger offers one simple answer when asked what he has learned about the herbicide system — timing is everything.
"It's so critical," he says. "Dicamba is a very effective herbicide, but like with most products, the bigger the weed gets, the more difficult it is to kill. If you stay on top of things and hit these weeds before they reach four inches, you can kill them."
His herbicide program is built around timing. Herbicide burndown applications made 20–30 days before planting typically consist of Roundup PowerMAX® herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Caporal® herbicide (plus an approved DRA), a combination that provides contact kill on actively growing weeds and residual protection that can last until the planters crank up. Behind the planter, he makes an application that includes XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Roundup PowerMAX herbicide (plus an approved DRA) with the goal of killing emerged weeds — along with Warrant® Ultra herbicide to provide residual protection for at least 30 days.
About 30 days after planting the crop, he's checking fields for weed emergence. When they are spotted in fields, he knows it is time to get the sprayers out and make an in-crop application of XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Roundup PowerMAX herbicide (plus an approved DRA). In some fields, some seasons, he'll make a Warrant Herbicide application with the final fertility application to provide residual activity to last through crop canopy.
Getting control of weeds early in cotton is important for several reasons, according to Kutzenberger. Weeds can block sunlight from reaching the crop, and they take nutrients and moisture from the soil intended for the cotton plants.
"Early weed control sets the stage for the entire season," he says. "We have some XtendFlex cotton varieties that have performed well in terms of yield, lint turnout and fiber grades. XtendFlex cotton is very important to us, from a profitability standpoint."
Kutzenberger says communicating with neighbors is critically important. "Be aggressive to find out what's being planted around you," he advises. "The first year we planted [cotton with XtendFlex technology], it was very easy for me to go to all of my neighbors and tell them I wanted to plant this new cotton. They knew what I was doing, and I knew what they were planting. Today, everyone around us is pretty much growing Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans and cotton with XtendFlex technology, or using dicamba in some way. That has made things even easier. We stay within the label, but we know what's planted around us."
Farmers aren't the only ones placing trust in the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System again this year. As a retailer and custom applicator for Chandler Co-Op in Chandler, Minnesota, Jeff Einck is a trusted adviser to soybean farmers who deal with a myriad of challenges by Mother Nature. While he was powerless to offset 2019's cold, wet spring, he is able to support his customers' herbicide management plans. He says his customers, like most farmers, contend with aggressive and yield-robbing waterhemp pressure. Last year, about 60% of his customers planted Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans — a number that he estimates increased slightly in 2019. He says these customers often report better performance.
"Despite untimely rains last year that allowed weeds to grow taller than we would have liked, my customers overall were really pleased with all the weeds XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology [a restricted use pesticide] killed," Einck says.
As a retailer, Einck appreciates the trust that both his clients and their neighbors must place in his team to use the product safely and effectively. For this reason, he adheres to a careful process.
"The first thing we do when we meet with a customer and decide to spray dicamba is to determine what's growing around the field," Einck says. "We scout the field and watch to make sure we get the weeds at the proper height. We also make sure our machinery is clean — we do a rinse-out prior to spraying XtendiMax [with VaporGrip Technology]. And, finally, we spray when winds are not going to drift the product into any other crop."
His advice to customers and other custom applicators? "Know your surroundings. Spray early, when the weeds are small. Make sure you fill out proper documentation about the fields you are spraying. And, finally, follow the rules — it's important for us to be good stewards of the technology to make sure that other, better traits are brought to fruition in the future."
Those who heed his advice may spend a little extra time in the fields up-front, but Einck says the success of a clean field is well worth the time investment. "There are a lot of steps you need to take, but you're actually going to kill the weeds," he says.
While there's a lot of 2019 growing season yet to come, Einck is cautiously optimistic that farmers who put their trust in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System will once again see high yield potential and clean fields at harvest.
Time will tell, but one thing is certain: farmers have come to rely on the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System to arm them with the tools and resources they need to finish the season strong. It's a trust that has been built over generations, from the advent of Roundup® branded agricultural herbicides — and one that Bayer researchers are committed to expanding upon for many crop seasons and generations to come.
XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology has a 95% satisfaction rate, on average, by the farmers who used it in 2017 and 2018.* The latest herbicide technology, backed by tools and resources to help farmers maximize profit potential, is why farmers are putting their trust in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System, even on their traditionally challenging fields.
"It's important to be good stewards of the technology to make sure that other, better traits are brought to fruition in the future."
1 Based on approved EPA herbicide labels as of Aug. 2018.
2 Always use dicamba with traditional residual herbicides in pre-emergence and postemergence applications that have different, effective sites of action, along with other Diversified Weed Management Practices including the use of glyphosate. XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and in crop use may not be approved in all states. Performance may vary from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower's fields.
*XtendiMax® herbicide with VaporGrip® Technology grower survey — August 2017 and September 2018 — All growers surveyed were required to have 50+ acres of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans or cotton with XtendFlex® Technology and treat at least some acres with XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology to qualify. Average of 95% based on the results of 97% in 2017 and 93% in 2018.
Father-son team chooses the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System to stay on top of evolving weed pressure.
What was once a near disaster for farmers in this region has finally become manageable, thanks to dicamba.
Today's Acre caught up with Lisa Streck to learn about XtendFlex® soybeans, expected soon.
To see more stories and features, download the full issue.