‘Sleeper’ herbicide-tolerant trait could be headed to a field near you

Balance GT is not a household word among farm families like some herbicide traits, but it could become much better known when farmers learn about its specific characteristics, including its “reach-back” capabilities.

Balance GT is the name Bayer has given the soybean trait that confers tolerance to both isoxaflutole, an HPPD inhibitor that has been used in corn, and glyphosate. The trait could be launched in 2017 if it receives regulatory approval.

The isoxaflutole formulation, which Bayer hopes farmers can begin using on Balance GT soybeans after regulatory approval is given, will be called Balance Bean. It has been part of Bayer’s Corvus herbicide, which controls broadleaf weeds and grasses in corn, according to Clay Starkey, technical service representative for Bayer.

“Isoxaflutole or Balance is a Group 27, HPPD inhibiting herbicide,” says Starkey. “It is a component of Corvus, which is a big product in our Midwest corn market. Corvus consists of isoxaflutole; thiencarbazone-methyl, an ALS herbicide; and our CSI safener, which helps expand our application window.

“Balance is just the HPPD component of that. Balance Flex, which is sold in the corn market, is isoxaflutole with the safener, but the safener doesn’t pertain to the soybean market so we’re taking the safener out and will sell isoxaflutole or Balance Bean for the soybeans.”

Taking it out by the roots

The active ingredient in Balance Bean, a soil-applied herbicide, is unusual in that with a half-inch of rainfall it can “reach back” and control weeds, including Palmer amaranth, up to 2 inches tall.

“When we get a half-inch of rain, we’re able to get a reach-back where it turns into a different compound and reactivates itself and is able to go back and have efficacy from the ground on some of the weeds that have emerged,” says Starkey.

“Roughly a half inch of rain will turn it into a formulation that is similar to another herbicide that is still a Group 27, but it will come back and control these weeds that have broken through the soil. By the time those roots grab a hold of it, it can take them down.”

Balance GT is owned by MS Technologies and is being developed through a joint agreement between MS Technologies and Bayer. The dual herbicide tolerance trait has received a positive scientific opinion from the European Union Food Safety Authority, which was subsequently accepted by the European Commission for the import of Balance soybeans.

It has also received approval from the U.S., Canada and Brazil for cultivation and is near completion of receiving all key required import approvals globally.

Avoiding certain issues

Describing it as a “sleeper” among the herbicide-tolerant traits that have received more attention of late, Starkey gave growers and retailers a preview of the herbicide during a field day at the Bayer Breeding Center near Marion, Ark., in mid-August.

“We’re excited about this new technology,” he noted. “We need to bring new technologies to these growers, something that is easy to clean out of the spray rig and something that we can get out there and not have certain issues. And we get excellent grass control.”

One of the things you notice when you hear Starkey describing the herbicide trials at the center is that Balance Bean herbicide is almost always applied with something else.

“In the Balance Bean, Sencor, Liberty, Dual approaches, we have a couple of different modes of action we’re going after on these pigweeds,” said Starkey, who spoke at the field day along with Steve Lee, Bayer Agronomic Service Team member.

“We do not need to be relying solely on Balance Bean just like we don’t need to be solely relying on Liberty anymore. If we can find a medium there where we can get the proper rotation not only of chemistries but also cultural practices like running a moldboard plow or cover crops that’s what we need to do to protect this technology and the other technologies that are coming in the future.”

More 'neighbor-friendly'

Starkey said the Balance Bean herbicide is more “neighbor-friendly” than some of the other herbicides could be registered in other herbicide-tolerant-trait crops in 2017 or 2018.

“Our off-target movement can be minimized as much as possible by following label restrictions,” he said. “But we are not nearly as volatile as some of the other chemistries. We definitely feel like that this is kind of the sleeper in this race of traits.”

The Balance GT registration that is expected in 2017 will be followed in 2018 by the release of a Balance GT LL 55, which will be a Liberty Link stack that is bred from a Maturity Group 5 soybean Bayer believes will be better adapted to the Mid-South than other beans, pending regulatory approval.

“We feel that having a strong residual that picks up both grass and broadleaves will be important,” he said. “We’re starting to run into issues with barnyardgrass so here’s a good option to mix up your chemistries to control barnyardgrass in these fields.”

For more information, visit www.bayer.com.

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