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What's Going on Underground in Iowa Farm Fields?

April 13, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - One of the keys to Iowa's continued high yields of corn and soybeans is the use of genetically altered seeds that will tolerate weed-controlling herbicides. But how does that affect the makeup of Iowa's topsoil?

Dr. Robert Kremer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research microbiologist, has been studying the use of Glyphosate-treated plants on soil micro-organisms.

"We do find more soil fungal organisms on the roots of the Roundup-ready soybean plant which could be potential disease agents."

However, Kremer says, his research has found no direct connection between plant disease and the use of Glyphosate. He says it's supposed to stay within the plant - although some leaches into the soil.

"There is always an amount that does get into the soil system, and then these crops also will still contain Glyphosate within the plant. It moves throughout the plant, and a lot of it is released into the soil through the roots."

Managing soil quality also is important to yield and weed control, Kremer says, and if nutrients are insufficient through lack of good conservation practices, it can have an impact at harvest time.

Kremer will be the featured speaker at a seminar on weed control Thursday at Iowa State University.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA