Dow may hold back Enlist corn in Canada

Dow AgroSciences hasn’t scrapped plans for a limited launch of its 2,4-D/glyphosate-tolerant Enlist corn in Canada this spring, but now grants that it may have to wait.

Canadian regulators have already approved the Enlist herbicide tolerance trait for launch, in both corn and soybeans. However, Dow’s Enlist seed-and-chemical package for corn growers also calls for release of its combination 2,4-D-and-glyphosate herbicide, Enlist Duo — which hasn’t yet received approval from the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

Furthermore, the Enlist trait hasn’t yet received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor that country’s Environmental Protection Agency, which from an export marketing standpoint could leave some Canadian growers unable to ship their Enlist corn south.

"Our Canadian intentions remain that we plan to conduct a limited-scale commercial launch in Canada for spring 2013," the company said in a statement this week. However, "we continue to await the approval of Enlist Duo herbicide in Canada, which is essential before we launch the system."

The company said it’s also closely monitoring the approval process for the corn trait in the U.S. "as we move to a final commercialization timing decision in Canada out of respect for movement of grain between the two countries."

If the U.S. seed registration and/or the Canadian herbicide approval don’t appear by this spring, the company will make its decision accordingly, said Jeff Loessin, Dow Agro’s Canadian portfolio marketing leader for crop protection in Calgary.

"The (Enlist) technology is sound, the science is sound," he said, but U.S. and Canadian regulators, for unknown reasons, have moved at different paces to approve it.

If Dow Agro decides to hold back the release of Enlist corn until 2014, corn growers who’ve expressed interest in the Enlist seed will get a fully-approved corn seed variety with "equal" genetics to Enlist in terms of glyphosate tolerance, disease and insect resistance and other attributes, Loessin said.

The company has set aside seed with and without the Enlist trait for this purpose, he added.

That said, "we are still hopeful that all the necessary approvals will be received in time to allow a limited commercial launch in Canada in 2013," Dow added in its statement.

"The same boat"

The company still plans to seed demonstration plots for interested growers to visit in Ontario and Quebec this spring, ahead of a larger commercial launch, Loessin said.

Dow for months has touted the Enlist system not only as a way to prolong the usefulness of other herbicides and herbicide-tolerant crops by broadening herbicide rotations, but also as a rival to other herbicide-tolerant cropping systems.

If the release doesn’t happen this spring, there are other tools which growers in Canada’s corn belt — largely in Ontario and Quebec — may use to deal with herbicide-resistant weeds, Loessin said.

Growers in Ontario have been supportive of Dow’s plans for Enlist, he said, noting growers without Enlist would remain "in the same boat they’ve been in the last two years" facing weeds such as glyphosate-resistant Canada fleabane.

Use of Group 2 (ALS/AHAS inhibitor) herbicides to control such weeds has led to a climb in Group 2-resistant weed populations, which had become less prevalent in fields after the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready glyphosate-tolerant traits, he said.

2,4-D, a growth regulator herbicide, is in Group 4.

As for Enlist soybeans in Canada, Dow’s plan remains to release those varieties in 2015, to make sure the approvals are first secured to export the beans to markets such as China.

Corn grown in Canada generally stays in Canada, winding up either in livestock stomachs or in an ethanol plant on this side of the border, Loessin said. Canada’s soybeans, however, are an export crop by comparison and wouldn’t get far without approvals for food or feed use in importing nations.

Related stories:
Dow delays Enlist corn release amid protests, Jan. 18, 2013
Dow’s 2,4-D-tolerant corn, soy traits get federal approval, Oct. 25, 2012
Glyphosate-resistant fleabane arrives in Ont., May 4, 2011