Why take a chance with old technology?

Written by Kim Brown-Livingston on Sep 11 2017

Category: Grow Grain

Choosing between RR1 and RR2Y soybeans is like choosing between a flip phone and a smartphone.

Once you’ve switched to a smartphone, would you ever go back to a flip phone? Not if you want to do all the things you can do with your smartphone. Choosing Roundup Ready® 1 (RR1) soybeans over Roundup Ready 2® Yield (RR2Y) is a bit like that.

Evolution leaves old tech behind

Soybeans may seem like a new crop on the Prairies, but farmers in Manitoba have been growing them for more than 30 years. We needed varieties suitable for our relatively short season, and acreage really started to grow when we were first introduced to glyphosate-tolerant varieties. This year soybeans soared to a record 2.3 million acres, up 40% from the previous year. Now the third largest crop grown in MB, farmers can choose from dozens of varieties, ranging from older varieties that have been on the market for over a decade to the latest genetics.

Farmers have definitely recognized the power of new technology. For example, the RR2Y trait allows the grower to apply higher rates of glyphosate and is more beneficial to yield as its position in the soybean genome is a better fit. Today, almost all new soybean varieties contain the RR2Y event. The evolution of soybean genetics from conventional to RR1 to RR2Y is like comparing the progression of telephone use – from landlines to flip phones to smartphones!

The cost of cheaper seed

So why would anyone choose RR1 beans when RR2Y beans are supposed to be better? Sure the seed itself is cheaper. That’s because once the RR1 patent expired there were a few older varieties that could be grown and kept for seed. These few varieties had only that one patent, while most varieties have other Plant Breeders’ Rights agreements in place and cannot be kept for seed. These few older, off-patent RR1 beans can be found for sale and are less costly than newer RR2Y genetics. But there are some serious drawbacks to choosing RR1 beans over RR2Y.

Genetic superiority

The second generation of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans is genetically superior to the first generation. Yields of RR2Y beans are consistently higher than those of RR1 beans. Newer genetics are bred for increased Iron Deficiency Chlorosis (IDC) tolerance as well as resistance to disease. RR2Y breeding programs are tackling phytopthera and sclerotinia and incorporate the latest scientific knowledge about these diseases into development of new varieties.

Harder to get top-of-the-line seed treatments

Another significant disadvantage to growing “brown bag” RR1 beans is the inability to access top quality seed treatments that are available for all RR2Y beans. Seed treatments like CruiserMaxx® Vibrance® Beans and EverGol® Energy with Stress Shield are only available to commercial seed treaters. These seed treatments offer the maximum protection from seed- and soil-borne diseases like fusarium, pythium and rhizoctonia as well as early season phytopthera. The insecticide portion of these seed treatments defends against wireworm, seed corn maggot and early season aphids. Home treatment of RR1 beans cannot offer the same level of protection that RR2Y beans carry. 

What next?

Soybean breeding programs will continue to incorporate the newest tools and techniques to increase yields. RR1 beans are already at a genetic disadvantage and the yield gap will only widen as soybean acres increase. Tighter soybean rotations mean increased disease pressure that older genetics cannot overcome. Without access to top quality seed treatments RR1 beans are vulnerable to early season disease and insect pressure that rob yield.

Soybeans are a long-season crop growing in a relatively short-season area. We need to do everything possible to get this crop growing. Using the best genetics and seed treatments help this crop get out of the ground early and growing aggressively. While growing RR2Y beans may initially seem more expensive, the yield penalties that RR1 beans can incur are too costly to overcome. 

If you’d like to talk through the advantages of RR2Y soybeans contact your local Cargill agronomist. Or for specific soybean variety recommendations for your area, check out our agronomists’ #Top5 Picks at https://www.cargillgrows.ca/top-five/agronomist-picks.

Always read and follow label directions. Roundup Ready® technology contains genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup Ready® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC, Monsanto Canada, Inc. licensee. Cruiser Maxx® and Vibrance® are registered trademarks of Syngenta. EverGol® is a registered trademark of Bayer CropScience. 

Tags: Soybeans, seed treatments, variety selection

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