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A weed scientist’s perspective on LL601

This may not be the most politically correct time to write an article about LibertyLink (LL) rice, but I believe rice producers should be aware of some things.

LL601 is name for one of the traits in one of the selections of rice that was evaluated several years ago for tolerance to Liberty or Ignite herbicide and for weed control. As you know, the trait was recently found in commercial rice, it was declared a contaminant, and trouble has followed.

It is unfortunate the markets reacted the way they. Most who work with the technology believe it is perfectly safe for human consumption. In fact, it and other LibertyLink traits have been approved by the USDA and FDA for just that.

The lower prices and the market reactions are all based on opinion, biases, and non-scientific issues — such as the European market’s acceptance of our rice. I can gripe about it as much as I want, but that is the way it is.

Meanwhile, as a weed scientist, it is frustrating to have a great new technology that is needed, practically labeled, and sitting on a shelf. I can say the same thing about Roundup Ready rice as well.

One of the most obvious applications of LL rice is for red rice control. Currently, the Clearfield system is running at about capacity. If resistance management is to be effective at all, the technology needs to be on only 25 to 30 percent of the rice acres at any given time. It is currently there already.

Clearfield resistance is cropping up in fields across Arkansas, mostly from out-crossing. LL rice would provide the option to rotate to another effective mode of action while staying in rice. That would extend the life of Clearfield rice and eventually LL rice as well.

In previous research, glufosinate (the active ingredient in Liberty and Ignite) controlled red rice in two or three properly timed applications. Glufosinate does not have any residual activity, so occasionally a follow-up or third application would be needed in a two-shot program.

If BASF decides to label Beyond herbicide as a standalone program for Clearfield rice in the United States, then we could have two different programs for resistance management with no rotational issues.

Add Roundup Ready rice and resistance would not be an issue for the foreseeable future. That would be true for most weeds and not just red rice.

There are some production advantages to growing other LL crops as well. Glyphosate drift to rice is one of our biggest production challenges. Once LL soybeans are introduced, a grower might decide to plant LL soybeans in a field that is near his LL rice. That would make it much easier to spray soybeans without hurting his rice.

Of course, if the market accepts LL rice, Roundup Ready rice likely will not be far behind. One benefit I believe the herbicide Ignite has over glyphosate (Roundup) is that it is less injurious in drift situations. Ignite is not as readily translocated as glyphosate and is not as effective at low rates, such as a drift.

Jason Norsworthy and I are working Brad Davis, with a graduate student in Fayetteville, Ark., to evaluate this in wheat, cotton, rice and soybeans.

The Clearfield production system currently relies on late-season seedhead suppression treatments of Beyond and on crop rotation for resistance management. It is a fragile existence. Resistance is already a problem in some fields, and I fear it will get progressively worse in the next few years.

Rotational options are and will be needed to maintain the red rice-free fields. Some folks in the rice industry are calling for the United States to declare itself a GMO rice country. From a weed control standpoint, I believe we need the GMO technology. I wish there was a way to have it and not affect the price you get for your rice.


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