The tiresome discussion of initial GMO expectations

A new article in the New York Times has questioned the benefits associated with genetically engineered crops (which I’ll call GMOs for brevity). The response to the article has been pretty predictable; folks who don’t like GMOs are circulating it to say “I told you so.” And ag-twitter has exploded with claims that the New York Times is biased against the technology. The article makes some reasonable points that GMO crops are not a ‘silver bullet’ cure all technology. But almost any …

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Is the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) better than nothing?

This post is probably more technical than most that I write, but it is something that I think needs to be written. I actually debated submitting a short article to a peer reviewed journal, but really didn’t want to wait the months to a year that would require before it saw the light of day. So I’m putting the nuts and bolts here, and perhaps someday I’ll submit some version of this analysis to a journal where “serious academics” can read it. …

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New study confirms herbicide use changed after adoption of GMO corn and soybean 

But, once again, we are left to wonder whether that’s good or bad.  A new paper was just published in the journal Science Advances that analyzes pesticide use data for farmers in the U.S. between 1998 and 2011. The authors (Edward Perry et al.) are currently agricultural economists at four different universities (Kansas State, Virginia, Michigan State, and Iowa State). Their goal was to determine if pesticide use differed between farmers using GMO varieties and farmers who did not use GMO varieties. Overall, …

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Enlist Duo registration being withdrawn by EPA due to “synergistic effects”

Chris Clayton at DTN is reporting this morning that EPA is withdrawing registration of Enlist Duo herbicide. The decision was posted yesterday in court documents. From the DTN report: “The filing was posted in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Food Safety against Dow AgroSciences and EPA over the regulatory approval of Enlist Duo.” Withdrawal of the herbicide’s registration will effectively make it illegal to use this herbicide, …

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Dead plants are probably bad for earthworms

I’ve gotten a number of questions recently about a new study titled “Glyphosate-based herbicides reduce the activity and reproduction of earthworms and lead to increased soil nutrient concentrations” that was recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports. Although the title seems pretty straightforward, there are some flaws in the study design that preclude any broad conclusions from this research. I would especially be cautious of making statements like Roundup is “imperiling streams, lakes, [and] aquifers” or that there are “far-reaching consequences of [glyphosate] use in ecosystems” …

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Are herbicides responsible for the decline in Monarch butterflies?

The monarch butterfly is in bad shape. The number of monarchs returning to their overwintering sites in Mexico has been declining steadily for at least a decade. The consensus suggests there are several reasons for this decline, including loss of their overwintering habitat and unfavorable weather patterns. But the purported cause of monarch decline that seems to get the most coverage is the loss of milkweed (Asclepias spp) in the midwestern US migratory path. The evidence seems clear that the number …

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Using ethofumesate when irrigating for emergence

by Andrew Kniss & Abdel Mesbah At a recent meeting in Powell, I was asked how to best use ethofumesate (active ingredient in Nortron SC and other herbicides) in fields that must be furrow irrigated for sugarbeet emergence. This is a difficult question. Ethofumesate (and almost all soil applied herbicides) require soil moisture to be effective. Ideally, residual herbicides should be applied to the soil shortly before either rainfall or overhead irrigation. Growers who have sprinkler systems in their field …

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If you’re a frog in a field, there are many ways to croak

Just saw a link to a story on the Guardian titled “Common pesticides ‘can kill frogs within an hour’“. Obviously, my interest was peaked. Global amphibian decline is a well-noted phenomenon, and it is possible that pesticides may play some role. But killing frogs “within an hour” is a pretty shocking result for a pesticide that is used properly. The Guardian piece reports on a study published today in Scientific Reports by Carsten Bruhl et al. The study aimed to study …

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Herbicides for sainfoin

We continue to get quite a few questions about weed control in sainfoin. Unfortunately, there are very few herbicide options currently registered for use in sainfoin (only 6 different active ingredients). We are investigating some additional herbicides in ongoing research trials. Although several herbicides look promising in our trials, these potential options will not be registered in time for the 2013 growing season (in fact, it is a distinct possibility they never will be). The following table lists currently registered herbicides for …

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Do genetically engineered crops really increase herbicide use?

Another interesting article about GMOs has been making the rounds today. This one was written by Dr. Charles Benbrook, Chief Science Consultant for The Organic Center. This publication is an updated version of a report that The Organic Center published in 2009. The new version has been published in “Environmental Sciences Europe” and can be downloaded here for free (hooray for open access!). The title of the article is “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first …

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