The Canola Acre Cage Match: Liberty Link vs Roundup Ready vs Clearfield

In Western Canada, we have few acre battles that get much attention, but one that intrigues our editorial staff every year is the battle of the canola herbicide tolerance trait race. It really is a three-way cage match that has swings in advantage every year. All three systems have unique characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. So here is the tale of the tape in our canola technology cage match.

Clearfield
At one time this technology owned by BASF was thought to be on the rise but it has held its 5% market share seemingly forever. Many growers first tried Clearfield canola when Nexera was its main technology provider, but with the Nexera switch to Roundup Ready technology, its promise has since diminished. One of the key features that gave it promise at one time was its non-GMO status, but that has resulted in limited premiums at the delivery point. The increasing issues of herbicide resistance might be the trigger that Clearfield needs to gain acres, but the probability is that this combatant is likely to just hold where it has been, as a limited acre player.

Liberty Link (LL):
With over 50% share of the market, Bayer’s Liberty Link system with its weed control issues has been fortunate to be partnered with the InVigor breeding system. Growers have shown that yield matters and they will deal with second choice weed control in comparison to the Roundup Ready system. The biggest opportunity for LL will be the growth of soybean and corn acres in Western Canada (in Manitoba, LL has around 65% share, according to MASC), with canola being the easiest of the three crops to grow with the LL system. With 50% to 55% of the canola acres, Bayer has looked to traits like pod shatter reduction to push its acre share higher.

Roundup Ready (RR):
Without question Monsanto’s RR system has provided convenience across many crops globally as both a one- or two-pass system. As the RR system’s hybrids have worked hard to close the gap on the InVigor hybrids, the delay of the TrueFlex trait approval by China has set RR breeders back. But you can’t argue with convenience — farmers demand increased efficiency and the RR system provides it. With 40% to 45% of the canola acres, RR has worked hard to be a very formidable opponent through superior weed control to the Bayer machine.

This three-way cage match has always been a two-way fight with Clearfield playing as more of a celebrity at Wrestlemania that gets tagged into the ring and looks to not get hit. With Bayer’s pending acquisition of Monsanto these two main foes are about to become one in the formation of the ultimate tag team for canola breeding and weed control, assuming that things hold together after the competition bureau is done. We already saw Monsanto and Bayer working together on InVigor Choice which was to be canola hybrids tolerant to both Liberty and Roundup but it was pulled before release.

So let us know what your intentions are this year. Which HT growing system will rise and which ones will fall in 2017 on your farm? For the purpose of simplicity we are assuming the shift in acres will be in RR and LL while Clearfield will hold steady at its typical acreage.

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