Few growers have thought about legally transferring saved Roundup Ready soybeans out of their grain bins to dump in the planter or drill when seeding no-till fields. But with the patents expiring on the older Roundup Ready soybean technology in 4 years, it might be a possibility.

Monsanto has agreed to maintain export approvals for this older Roundup Ready technology through 2021, even though the patent’s expiration in 2014 will turn it into an unprotected generic trait.

The company has also agreed not to collect royalties on the technology after 2014. Other seed companies will not be obligated to destroy or return seed with the expiration of these trait licenses.

Monsanto says it will not use variety patents against U.S. farmers who save varieties containing the expired Roundup Ready trait for planting on their own farms. This may not be the case with other seed companies.

Bin-Run Beans?

When No-Till Farmer readers were surveyed about whether they would plant bin-run Roundup Ready soybean seed after the patent expires, 33% indicated they would. Another 43% were not sure, while 24% would not plant bin-run seed since they prefer the seed-treatment protection and conditioning they get with newer bean varieties.

Some 86% indicated the reasons for using bin-run Roundup Ready soybean seed was that it be a cheaper seed alternative; 54% said it would be because of the elimination of tech or licensing fees; and 31% said it’s because they don’t believe anticipated yield increases with the newer Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology will pay off.

A remarkable 22% of growers said they’d plant bin-run Roundup Ready seed as a protest against Monsanto for poor treatment of growers and overly aggressive pricing in the past.

We also asked growers what yield increases they’re expecting from the new Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology. Over half of the growers expect a yield boost of less than 5 bushels per acre. Another 17% anticipate increases of 6 to 10 bushels per acre.

Some 35% of these growers expect Monsanto to drop the price of the Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean technology to compete with new alternative herbicide-resistant technologies.

Some 33% expect the decrease to be less than $6 per acre; 21% anticipate a $6-to-$10-per-acre drop; 8% anticipate a drop of $11 to $15 per acre; and 5% expect a price reduction in the range of $15 to $20 per acre.

If they plant off-patent, bin-run Roundup Ready soybeans to trim seed costs, 21% would boost seeding rates.

Not A Done Deal

Even with the original Roundup Ready soybean technology becoming generic, some no-tillers believe seed companies will find a way to discourage the bin-run seed issue.

But if a variety is certified under the Plant Variety Protection Act, you can save seed to use for next year’s crop. However, it’s illegal to sell the seed.

Since Monsanto expects to focus on the new Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology by 2012 and likely won’t continue to offer original Roundup Ready soybeans through the 23 seed firms they own, a few growers maintain it may be difficult for growers to save the older varieties for seed.

Payback Time?

One seed producer believes growers will choose bin-run Roundup Ready soybeans, especially if newer varieties don’t deliver a substantial yield boost.

“I expect farmers to plant bin-run Roundup Ready soybean seed to stick it to Monsanto for charging high tech fees and excessive seed costs, and having an arrogant attitude toward farmer needs,” he says. “Growers are mad about the way they’ve been treated by Monsanto. A number will plant bin-run Roundup Ready soybeans just to get even.”

Monsanto’s major troubles began 2 years ago when it aggressively raised seed prices. Rather than introducing new technologies at lower cost as in the past, they went for a higher premium — a move that hurt 2010 sales.

There could be repercussions for other companies that market Roundup Ready, LibertyLink or the new DuPont and Dow AgroSciences soybean technologies. Seed and herbicide sales might both take a hit if growers decide to plant more bin-run beans.