UPL seed business Advanta Seeds has big plans for its non-genetically modified imidazolinone herbicide tolerance sorghum trait, igrowth.
The “first in the world” commercial weed control technology for sorghum grain was developed using mutagenesis by the company’s Argentine research team. “Since then it has been developed and tested in various environments for performance and yield,” points out Advanta’s global strategic marketing and sales excellence manager, Benjamin Marolda.
Advanta launched igrowth sorghum in Argentina in 2017 and in Australia in 2018. “The technology is currently being introduced to many big sorghum regions such as the US, Mexico, Brazil, and South American countries as well as some of the eastern European regions to help boost their environmental opportunities,” says Advanta’s chief executive officer, Bhupen Dubey.
Mr. Dubey expects to launch the technology in the US and Mexico in 2020, subject to regulatory clearances. It is currently being commercialized in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. “South Africa, Russia, and other sorghum areas are under evaluation,” he says.
The company says that igrowth is reshaping the sorghum area globally as it has given the crop competitiveness that it never had in the past. “We are not limited to actual sorghum area, nor only grain as this technology was released in grain sorghum, but we are releasing it also for forages” Mr. Dubey points out. As climate change continues to impact agriculture, sorghum is expanding as one of the most efficient water-using crops, he adds.
When asked if the controversy surrounding new breeding techniques in the EU is likely to cast a shadow on products such as igrowth, Mr. Dubey remains optimistic. “Our technology is not threatened by this gene-editing debate between regulatory agencies as it was developed with traditional mutagenesis techniques,” he says.
In 2018, the European Court of Justice said that new mutagenesis techniques for plant breeding were subject to EU laws on genetically modified organisms. However, the European Commission subsequently said that it neither had plans to amend existing rules nor to propose new legislation in response to the ruling. Meanwhile, EU Ministers have called on the Commission to produce a study on the legal status of “novel genomic techniques” in plant breeding, as the debate continues.
Overcoming weed resistance
For farmers growing a traditional sorghum crop not tolerant to herbicides, some grasses and broadleaf weeds can be controlled with atrazine as a pre-emergence treatment or broadleaf selective herbicides with authorized label extension for the crop, such as 2,4-D, Advanta says. In some geographies such as the US, Argentina, and Australia, the only option for selective grass control is treating the seed with a safener to be able to spray metolachlor or S-metolachlor as a pre-emergent herbicide.
“igrowth opens the possibility of spraying over the top for grass control for the first time in sorghum crops,” says Mr. Marolda. “We recommend igrowth weed control to keep many of these active ingredients and crop rotations as we want to minimize the weed resistance appearance due to excess usage of a single weed control mode of action,” he adds.
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