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Growers to see new HT canola in 2016

Sulfonylurea tolerant canola | First new herbicide tolerant canola since mid 1990s

Canadian regulators have approved the first significant new herbicide tolerant canola system to come along in nearly two decades.

Cibus Global has received authorization by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to commercialize sulfonylurea tolerant canola.

The approval paves the way for the company to enter its non-genetically modified hybrids into Canada’s variety registration system and seek regulatory approval for the herbicide that will be applied on the crop.

Cibus will be field testing its SU Canola in Canada in 2014 and 2015.

“We hope to have at least some commercial launch for farmers in 2016,” said Peter Beetham, the company’s senior vice-president of research.

It will be the first new herbicide tolerant system since Roundup Ready, Liberty Link and Clearfield hit the market in the mid-1990s, with the exception of bromoxynil tolerant canola, which was approved a few years later.

Sulfonylurea is a Group 2 herbicide that has primarily been used on cereal crops. Field trials conducted by Cibus indicate that SU Canola will provide better weed control than Liberty and Clearfield and similar control to Roundup. Yields have been similar to the top canola hybrids on the market.

Beetham said it will be a one-pass system, which is a benefit over the Roundup Ready system, which can require the application of residual herbicides to control resistant weeds.

Keith Gabert, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, said the prospect of a new control system is exciting although there may be overlap with an existing product.

“The technology sounds quite similar to Clearfield technology that we have now. That’s in the same group of chemistry,” he said.

Sulfonylurea is closely related to Imidazolinone, the active ingredient in Clearfield, and sometimes weeds are cross-resistant to both chemistries.

“It will be interesting to see how they would differentiate their product from the current Clearfield offering,” said Gabert.

Beetham said it’s incorrect to assume all Group 2 systems are similar because there are five classes of chemicals within the Group 2 family.

Gabert said Clearfield and SU Canola both face the challenge of the prevalence of Group 2 herbicides, which are registered for use on almost every crop grown in Western Canada.

“Many growers have been very happy using Group 2 chemistry in their wheat and then choosing some other completely unrelated system in the year they’re growing canola,” said Gabert.

SU Canola was commercialized in the United States in 2013 with 1,000 acres seeded primarily in California.

It didn’t have to go through the same regulatory hoops south of the border because it was deemed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be a product of mutagenesis rather than genetic modification.

Company officials originally thought it would also be commercialized in Canada last year.

“Going through the CFIA can be a longer process than one might expect,” said Beetham.

BrettYoung will distribute the new system in Western Canada. The herbicide partner is expected to be Rotam, a Chinese manufacturer that is submitting a yet unnamed sulfonylurea herbicide for regulatory approval.

Beetham expects the system to be a good fit in southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where growers are expected to plant 1.5 million acres of soybeans in 2014, the vast majority of which will be Roundup Ready varieties.

“I’ve seen a lot of fields south of Winnipeg that look like soyola, they look like a mixture of soybean and canola,” he said.

Ed Rempel, president of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, said he looks at two things when selecting a canola variety to plant on his farm near Starbuck.

“Will the canola wind up being a weed in Roundup Ready soybeans the following year? That’s the first thing I look at,” he said.

“And the second very important thing that I look at is will there be any herbicide carryover that would affect my seeding winter wheat into that standing canola stubble in the fall of the application year?”

He said SU Canola will have a good chance of success in Manitoba if the herbicide the company chooses doesn’t have a lingering effect on the winter wheat crop during dry years.

Growers also have the option of planting Clearfield or Liberty Link canola to control volunteer canola in the next year’s soybean crop, but Beetham thinks SU Canola will be a better option.

“Liberty is an expensive option that maybe doesn’t have the best weed control,” he said.

Cibus hasn’t decided on a price for the system, but Beetham anticipated it will be less expensive than the competition because of lower seed and herbicide costs and the need for only one herbicide application.

“We will be competitive and most likely a little bit cheaper,” he said.

The company thinks the product should be able to develop a sizeable following over time, partly because of its non-GM status, which will allow it to be sold in the European Union and other GM-sensitive markets.

“From all accounts, there is a growing demand for non-GM canola. We know that for sure in the U.S.,” said Beetham.

“If we got 10 percent of the (canola) market, we’d be happy. We don’t expect that to happen overnight, obviously.”

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