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Bean growers could get help with weed control

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Gowan Seed Co. officials have sent the Idaho Bean Commission strong signals that the company intends to again start producing a discontinued herbicide that proved helpful in controlling hairy nightshade in bean fields.

BOISE — A discontinued herbicide that helped dry bean growers address their top production challenge — hairy nightshade — could be returned to the market in 2015.

The Idaho Bean Commission in January formally asked Gowan Seed Co. to reintroduce Eptam 20G, the granular form of a herbicide that proved helpful in controlling the weed in bean fields.

Gowan officials have asked University of Idaho weed scientist Don Morishita to conduct some field trials with the herbicide this year.

He said that’s a strong signal the company intends to start producing the chemical again, though Gowan officials haven’t told him that directly.

“That makes me think they’re at least interested in it,” said Morishita, superintendent of UI’s Kimberly Research and Extension Center. “Hopefully, this will lead to its return.”

Scott Kerbs, Gowan’s sales representative in Idaho, told the Capital Press April 28 that the company is taking a serious look at whether it’s feasible to start producing Eptam 20G again.

IBC member Don Tolmie said Gowan has asked the commission for its best guess on how many acres would be treated with the herbicide if it’s brought back.

That number will have to be at least 30,000, Tolmie said, which is the reason for Morishita’s trials.

The chemical hasn’t been available to growers for several years and the trials are needed to reintroduce farmers to Eptam 20 and show hard data that proves its effectiveness.

“If we can demonstrate good nightshade control with Eptam 20G, that (30,000 acres) will not be a problem,” Tolmie said.

Gowan still produces a liquid form of the herbicide known as Eptam 7E but its residual effect is much shorter-lived than Eptam 20G, Tolmie said. Because Eptam 20G’s residual activity lasts much longer, it can be applied during planting and avoid the plant-back restrictions that some other herbicides have.

Based on the results of two separate IBC surveys in 2013 and 2014 that generated responses from 300 Idaho farmers, hairy nightshade is dry bean growers’ top production challenge by far.

The weed not only reduces dry bean yields, it can impact harvest as well because it stays green longer than bean plants and can clog harvesting equipment, said IBC Administrator Lacey Menasco.

If the gelatinous fluid in nightshade seeds is crushed during harvest, it can stain beans, lowering their marketing value, and the presence of even a small amount of nightshade seed in a lot of dry bean seed can result in it not being certified disease-free.

Southern Idaho dry bean growers’ struggles with nightshade have increased in recent years and having Eptam 20G as a tool to help control the weed could benefit the bean industry significantly, Morishita said.

“Nightshade has really become a problem for these bean growers,” he said. “Being able to apply this (herbicide) … would be a big help for them.”

Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale, said Gowan officials have cooperated with the IBC and the ball is now in the commission’s court.

“It is somewhat incumbent upon the bean commission now to help this thing along,” he said.


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