German chemical giant Bayer is launching a new genetically modified soyabean in the USA in a bid to retain its dominance in the sector over rival Corteva, Reuters reported on 9 April.

Bayer’s new XtendFlex soyabeans and Corteva’s Enlist E3 variety were set to be the most popular choices with farmers in the coming years, according to interviews with a dozen seed makers, dealers and farmers, the report said.

Each seed tolerates three chemical herbicides so that farmers can destroy weeds without damaging their crops, as weeds grow increasingly resistant to the once-universal glyphosate herbicide, according to Reuters.

XtendFlex soyabeans are marketed alongside the previous top US soyabean seed, Bayer’s Xtend. As well as resistance to dicamba and glyphosate, XtendFlex is also resistant to glufosinate and received EU authorisation for food, feed, import and processing last September, paving the way for its full launch this year.

Bayer bought glyphosate developer Monsanto for US$63bn in 2018 and the following year, Corteva challenged Monsanto’s two decades-long dominance of the US market by launching Enlist on a small scale. Farmers had welcomed the competition, according to Reuters, as previously they had had little choice but to accept Monsanto’s seeds.

“It is setting up to be a two-dog battle between XtendFlex and Enlist,” said Jim Herr, a manager for Beck’s Hybrids, a seed company that sells Bayer and Corteva brands.

Enlist E3 is resistant to glyphosate and glufosinate, as well as the new 2,4-D choline herbicide.

Corteva said it expected Enlist would account for about 30% of US soyabean plantings this year, an area of around 10.5M ha, and around half of North America's plantings eventually.

Bayer declined to estimate Xtend soya plantings, which plateaued at around 20.2M ha last year, Reuters said.

A third player, BASF was also distributing a new soyabean brand, Xitavo, Reuters said. Xitavo was genetically modified to tolerant glyphosate, glufosinate and 2-4-D choline and would cover just a few hundred thousand hectares in its first year.

The United States Department of Agriculture has projected US soya plantings at around 36M ha this year.