SC Cotton Fields Test Site for New Herbicide

Cotton specialists are hoping an herbicide that until now had been confined to aquatic uses could be part of the answer to the glyphosate-resistant pigweed problem. Fluridone is marketed by SePRO Corporation under the trade name Sonar. It's what's known as a carotenoid biosynthesis inhibitor and prevents the plant from transferring energy to chlorophyll. Chemicals with similar modes of action includes Command, Balance and Callisto.
 

Cotton Incorporated Senior Ag and Environmental Research Director Bob Nichols says Fluridone was evaluated by DowElanco predecessor Eli Lilly in the 1970s – but was never labeled for cotton…

“The compound was developed along with other compounds of this general chemistry in that period. But, it was not commercialized, because it couldn’t be used in corn or soybean.”
 

This past winter – Cotton Inc, SePro, the National Cotton Council and USDA worked together on an evaluation strategy for fluridone on cotton and got the EPA to issue a Section 18 exemption for use of the herbicide on a thousand acres in Arkansas and South Carolina. University of Arkansas Monticello Extension Weed Scientist Ken Smith is coordinating the national project and says if all goes well – they're hoping the company will seek a full federal label…

“What we’re hoping is that it’s a long-residual, pre-emerge herbicide, one that we can put out just prior to planting and give us eight-weeks of weed control. Now, the jury’s still out on that, as to whether that’s going to be good enough at a rate or price we can afford.”

Smith says they won't know if they can do it cost-effectively:

“Till you get it in the farmers’ hands on acres big enough to really walk a field and look at it, you cannot tell what the product’s going to do. That was our purpose of perusing, and EPA worked with us very well to get a Section 18.”

Although the inability to apply Fluridone to corn or soybeans would raise the price, Smith says it's aquatic applications provide additional potential:

“We’re looking at it on some of our ditch banks and irrigation and canals, places like that where we’ve got pigweed with seed heads, if we can utilize this compound, environmentally safe and all, I’m pretty excited about what we could accomplish.”

Nichols says they're looking at it as a pre-emerge herbicide with a possible use rate of point-two-pounds of active ingredient per acre.  That would cost about $38 an acres, but he says the product could reduce the cost of other herbicides on cotton by half, and if it provides control of glyphosate-tolerant weeds, like Palmer amaranth, that could reduce future weed control expenses by even more.


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