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Ontario farmers quickly adopting herbicide resistant soybeans

(Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

George Morris Centre News Release, 09/10/2002, via AgNet: (GUELPH, ON) - The rising trend of adopting herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybeans and environmentally friendly no-till practices is documented in a new report by the George Morris Centre.

The study, surveying 352 Ontario soybean growers on their cropping practices, found that 30 percent of Ontario's soybean acreage was planted to HT seed in 2001. The new technology makes good economic and environmental sense, because producers report making 1.7 fewer field passes than they did three years ago.

Put into the context of the 2002 soybean crop, farmers continue to vote with their seeders. Adoption rates have increased again from 30 percent in 2001 to an estimated 40 to 45 percent of 2002 soybean acreage.

HT seed is part of a major shift in growing soybeans. The seed is genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate. This means that farmers can spray glyphosate over an emerging soybean crop to kill weeds without damaging the crop. The genetically modified seed can be sown with no-till equipment which makes a small slice in the soil and drops seed into crop residue from the previous year. This system makes moldboard ploughing unnecessary, a process which makes soil more vulnerable to erosion and requires more fuel use.

"Our study also found a positive correlation between size of operation and the adoption of HT seed and no-till practices," says Cher Brethour, lead researcher for the George Morris Centre. "Larger farm operations with gross farm income of more than $200,000 tend to use more HT soybeans, use better conservation tillage practices and leave more crop residue on the land."

The leaders of the Chatham-based Ontario Soybean Growers have tracked similar statistics. "The study clearly shows that glyphosate-tolerant soybeans are an important tool for farmers who have adopted environmentally friendly no-till production practices," says Liam McCreery, chair of Ontario Soybean Growers. "With no-till production, farmers are burning less fuel. That reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the air. At the same time, soil quality is improved because there is less soil erosion. No-till also saves the farmer time during the busy planting season and saves money on fuel and through less wear and tear on equipment. It's clearly a win-win situation for the farmer and the environment."

The report - authored by Brethour along with Al Mussell, Holly Mayer and Larry Martin of the Centre - concludes that the 2002 US Farm Bill will continue to pressure Ontario soybean growers on competitive market prices. Obvious gains with one product or technology may be offset in any particular year by planting decisions cued by the markets. This means that genetically enhanced seed must deliver economic benefits that equal or surpass specialty markets that will continue to develop in the future.

The complete report, "Agronomic, Economic and Environmental Impacts of the Commercial Cultivation of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybeans in Ontario" is available from the Centre's web site at http://www.georgemorris.org. The study was commissioned by the Council for Biotechnology Information.