Incline AX, marketed by PlainsGold, and LCS Fusion AX, marketed by Limagrain Cereal Seeds, both hard red winter wheats, have been planted on thousands of acres of winter wheat seed production in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana and parts of Oregon and Washington.
The harvest from those acres will provide certified seed that will be available to farmers for planting in the fall of 2018. The new varieties, the product of a partnership between Colorado Wheat Research Foundation, Limagrain Cereal Seeds and the chemical company Albaugh, LLC, will enable farmers to spray the herbicide, Aggressor, over growing wheat to kill grassy weeds, an option that provides a new chemistry in addition to the Clearfield varieties that have been available for the last 17 years.
Until the release of this new technology, farmers have had few weapons against grassy weeds.
“This is a chemistry which will be labelled for the first time for use in wheat that is more effective on feral rye, cheatgrass, downy brome and volunteer wheat,” says Brian Erker, executive director of the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation, which owns the trait that was developed at Colorado State University.
Erker said the promise of the new wheat production system stems from the fact that it offers control of some of the most troublesome grassy weeds that wheat growers face.
“This is a Group 1 herbicide that is more effective on some of the most troublesome grassy weeds,” Erker says. “It is a new option beyond the Group 2 chemistry that is based on the ALS mode of action in Clearfield that has been out there for 17 years and that has seen some issues with developing resistance.”
The new wheat production system, named CoAXium, is based on a new non-GMO trait. It was developed using traditional breeding technology similar to what wheat breeders used to create Clearfield varieties.
Erker says the process started with researchers looking for an herbicide that could control the target weeds and from there moved to developing a tolerance trait for that herbicide that could be used to develop the base of a new wheat production system.
“CSU researchers found strains that looked promising, planted them, then sprayed them with the target herbicide,” Erker says. “The plants that survived were the parents that we used to develop lines that had resistance to the herbicide.”
Aggressor is not currently registered for use on wheat, but approval by the EPA is expected in early 2018.
“Right now, we are looking at a Feb. 1 registration for Aggressor herbicide,” says Chad Shelton, global marketing director for proprietary technologies with Albaugh. Shelton worked on developing the herbicide and the system stewardship for the new wheat production system.
He says the introduction of a new herbicide and a new wheat production system is welcome news.
“It has been 17 years since Clearfield was introduced and we have been using the same mode of action herbicides since then to control winter annual grasses like brome species, jointed goatgrass and feral rye,” Shelton says. “We have had confirmed cases of resistance to Group 2 herbicides with ALS mode of action in the Pacific Northwest for jointed goatgrass and downy brome grass. We are very excited about offering a new mode of action that will give farmers another tool in their toolbox.”
When it becomes available, Shelton says good stewardship of the Aggressor technology is “absolutely critical.”
Rotating the new technology, Group 1, Accase mode of action, with the older Group 2, ALS mode of action, will provide farmers with the opportunity to get a longer life for all the available tools, he says.
Both Erker and Shelton say they are proud that the new wheat production system was developed and is owned by farmers.
“The idea behind this wheat came from farmers who were talking to research scientists,” Erker says. “It was during a board meeting where farmers were talking to research scientists and asking what is the next best thing those scientists could work on to help farmers. “It turned out they wanted something to control grassy weeds that would be based on a post-patent chemistry and available to everyone at a more competitive price.”
Erker says CSU has more research like that which developed CoAXium Wheat Production System in the pipeline.
“Bringing a new herbicide tolerant trait in wheat that was developed and is owned by wheat growers is exciting and a great honor,” Shelton says. “To my knowledge this is the first herbicide tolerant trait in wheat that is truly owned by wheat growers and will help drive grower profitability around the globe,” he added.
Erker says he is proud that Colorado wheat farmers are owners of the new CoAXium wheat Production System and that the partnership of CWRF, Limagrain and Albaugh will enable farmers across the U.S. and around the world to access the technology at a very competitive price.
“We would like to see this system expand to help finance more research in other areas,” Erker says.
Great technology but careful management and stewardship required Introducing a new technology such as the CoAXium Wheat Production System carries an education component to make sure that farmers know how to use it correctly and how to manage risks.
“Aggressor herbicide is a grass-only herbicide. It does not provide broadleaf control. But it does have a very strong mode of action on grasses and it will absolutely kill wheat that does not have the AXigen trait,” says Shelton, who worked on the development of the CoAXium WPS, system stewardship and the Aggressor herbicide that is part of it, at Albaugh.
The first step for managing the launch of the CoAXium wheat varieties is to clearly identify the variety when the grower makes a purchase. All CoAXium wheat varieties will carry the AX designation in the varietal name so that it is clear that they are part of the CoAXium WPS and that they have the AXigen trait which allows for the grower application of Aggressor herbicide.
One thing farmers using Aggressor won’t have to worry about is the volatilization issues that have been a problem with the over-the-top Dicamba products introduced two years ago.
“The active ingredient in Aggressor is not prone to volatilization,” Shelton says. “That said, there obviously needs to be the same management practices that you would use with any herbicide when it comes to managing physical drift. Things such as wind speed and direction are always important.”
Of bigger concern, Shelton says, is the fact that there will now be two herbicide-tolerant wheats in the wheat market, along with traditional wheat.
“Herbicide-tolerant wheats — the Clearfield Wheat System that has been around for 17 years and the new CoAXium WPS — are not cross-tolerant. If you spray Aggressor on Clearfield wheat, who will kill it. If you spray Beyond on CoAXium wheat, you will kill it. If you spray either one on traditional wheat, you will kill it,” Shelton says.
That requires farmers to be sure they implement concise record keeping and management so that growers always know where they have CoAXium Wheat, Clearfield Wheat and traditional wheat planted.
“Every year, we have traditional wheat killed with Beyond because of record keeping errors,” he says. “Adding another herbicide tolerant wheat increases the risk of that mistake.”
One practice that has proven to be virtually foolproof, he says, is color-coded seed treatments.
“In the Pacific Northwest, where at one time about a third of the crop was Clearfield, Albaugh pioneered with the seed industry to treat Clearfield with a green seed treatment, where traditional seed remained red,” Shelton says. “All a farmer has to do is dig up a plant and find the seed before spraying and verify that there is a green seed treatment present. What we need to do now is introduce a new color that is CoAXium WPS. In my career, I have never seen an accident with Clearfield and traditional wheat using that method.”
Shelton says he has more than 75 demonstration plots planted across the seven states where CoAXium WPS will be grown.
“We have trials with Kansas State University, Oklahoma State, Colorado State University, the University of Nebraska, Montana State, Washington State and Oregon State,” he says. “Farmers and ag retailers in all of those states will be able to attend field days this year and learn more about CoAXium WPS and Aggressor herbicide throughout this summer.
“With the existing Clearfield technology, the new CoAXium technology and traditional wheats, we have a lot of options for rotations for good weed control and preservation of this technology long into the future.”