Two seed companies are working together to develop a new variety of sugar beet that is resistant to three different herbicides.
Monsanto Co. and German plant breeding company KWS Saat want to create a genetically engineered beet that would allow growers to better control weeds, reported The Capital Press (http://bit.ly/1U023hx ).
They plan to hold trials over the next three years and have the sugar beet on the market in eight to 10 years.
Most sugar beets grown in the Snake River region have already been engineered by Monsanto Co. to resist its widely-used Roundup herbicide. KWS signed an agreement with Monsanto this year to develop the new sugar beet variety, which will tolerate the herbicides glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba.
The two companies also worked together to develop the Roundup Ready sugar beets.
"We're very excited about it. We think it's going to increase grower productivity," KWS scientist Aaron Hummel told growers during the Snake River Sugar Beet Conference earlier this month.
Researchers say the combination of three herbicide-resistant traits will be helpful because weeds resistant to one chemical will still be killed by one of the other two herbicides.
Hummel said the new beet won't be a silver bullet, "but it's a very good solution that will help you have more options to manage glyphosate resistance in weeds."
University of Idaho weed scientist Don Morishita said the new variety is a good idea, but added that some kochia weeds in the area are resistant to both dicamba and glyphosate. The third herbicide, glufosinate, works well in the Midwest but isn't as effective in this region's dry, low-humidity environment, he said.
"I think this idea of stacking traits is a reasonable one but I'm not entirely sold that (dicamba and glufosinate) are the best two traits to stack into sugar beets grown in Idaho and Oregon," he said.