Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To GMO or Not To GMO

That is the question!

Much has been discussed and tried since the RR and Bt genes were introduced into the marketplace. Is it healthy? Is it leading us down a dark path?

From a farmer standpoint "the events" increased yield and ease of controlling pests. That is it once did. Now more and more farmers are finding that weeds have become resistant to the glyphosate treatment and required refuge acres yield as much as GMO acres.

This happened right here. In this part of Ohio we have farms that have been continuous soybeans for decades. The introduction of the RR soybean made it easy to control weeds for awhile but now we have documented resistance to marestail, lambsquarter and now giant and common ragweeds. Perennial weeds have become tougher to control, too.

On the corn side, years of testing on my farm and others never showed a yield gain with Bt and other traits that were introduced. I never switched to GMO corn because it just didn't pay and cost more. Now all traits are so expensive farmers are really searching for the most profitable seed for their cropping programs.

In 2006 we had excess rain here and everything worked pretty well. In 2007 we couldn't buy a rain and nothing worked well. Last year we had the same scenario here but the cool nights saved us and we had a pretty decent crop overall.

Still, county, state and national soybean yields were down from the year before. Here that was much in part to resistant weeds that shaded plants and stole valuable moisture and nutrients from our crop.

I saw the low population of escaped weeds in 06 and 07 and decided to plant as much wheat as I could in the fall of 07. It was so dry. Grandpa taught us to dust in a fall crop whenever you could and we did that. The unexpected $10 wheat price last winter was a bonus.

I also decided to double crop those wheat acres with conventional soybeans so I could see if I could control the weeds without a post application of glyphosate. Sure enough, I had to go back to my pre-RoundUp training to control weeds in soybeans but I was successful and had a good crop.

This year I am planting all non GMO crops to see if I can knock back the population of GMO pests while saving on seed costs. That is $16 for a bag of soybean seed worth less than $10 today on the grain market instead of the $34-$60 I have seen quoted for GMO soybeans.

Will this be a good move? I don't know but I think so on my acres.

What are you doing on your acres this year?

Ed Winkle

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