A majority of respondents who grew Roundup Ready alfalfa – 72% – would grow it again, according to a University of California survey on the genetically engineered crop. Another 21% said they may do so, while 7% said they wouldn’t.
A total of 381 responded to the survey, but only 113 had actually grown the crop. After indicating such, those 113 growers were given a list of 12 questions to consider. What follows is a report on their answers, presented at the Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, held Dec. 11-13 in Las Vegas, NV.
Better weed control was the top-ranked answer to the question of what Roundup Ready alfalfa growers liked most about it; seed cost was the major negative. Most growers – 74% – were more concerned about the potential for Roundup-resistant weeds than about potential contamination of conventional alfalfa by the transgenic crop. Only 5% indicated they were concerned about gene flow in hay and 10% were somewhat concerned.
“About 25 respondents felt that the performance (of Roundup Ready alfalfa) far exceeded expectations; 60 were very pleased with the result,” Steve Orloff told the 800-plus conference participants. Orloff is a Siskiyou County, CA, farm advisor who co-authored the survey. “Around 18 were satisfied, eight growers were disappointed and two were extremely disappointed. The reason those growers were extremely disappointed was because the weed control was not what they expected. And they felt that the Roundup Ready varieties yield a little bit less.”
Sixty-three percent of those who’d grown the transgenic crop cited better weed control as an advantage; nearly 49% also liked its simplicity in weed management; 37%, flexibility in application timing; and 24%, higher yields, quality or stand persistence.
What did respondents like least about Roundup Ready alfalfa? Nearly 17% didn’t feel there were any negatives to the crop. A total of 77% didn’t like the cost of the crop’s seed; 19%, Roundup-resistant weeds; 15%, the technology-use agreement; 12%, that varieties didn’t seem to yield well; 4%, that weed control wasn’t effective; and 5%, the difficulties of marketing Roundup Ready alfalfa.
Half of those who had grown the crop said they don’t believe it yielded higher than conventional varieties while almost 27% said it “definitely” did. Just about 12% felt conventional alfalfa yielded better than Roundup Ready alfalfa; nearly 11% said they didn’t know one way or the other. Half the growers also thought quality was the same regardless of what kind of alfalfa was grown. About 41% thought Roundup Ready alfalfa's quality was higher than that of conventional and 3% believed the opposite. Seven percent answered that they didn't know.
Asked whether the biotech crop offered better stand persistence, 49% answered “yes” while 36% felt it was the same as with conventional. Just about 4% thought Roundup Ready alfalfa provided lower stand persistence and nearly 12% “didn’t know.”
For more on the survey and what organic, conventional and Roundup Ready growers have to say about transgenic crops and coexistence, read our January issue of Hay & Forage Grower.