Creating the annual list of key issues and events has been quite a challenge this year. At first glance, corn seems to be sitting alone at the top in all its golden glory, with everything else in a small heap at its feet. Did anything happen this year that didn’t have ties to corn?
Well, sure. True, corn and ethanol permeated many facets of your business, but many old favorites stayed the course. Let’s take a quick look at this year’s key topics, which include ethanol and aerial, rust and resistance, biotech and plant health.
Infused With Energy
Increased fuel and feed demands along with expected higher market prices spurred the planting of more corn acres — nearly 93 million acres, the highest since 1944. Many growers ditched soybeans, cotton, and wheat in favor of corn; state corn records were set in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota, while Iowa continued to lead the nation in total corn acres.
As we expected, the corn craze impacted much of your business as growers were willing to spend more money — from input sales to scouting to custom application. Looking to make their stands stronger, a surprising number of growers opted to utilize fungicide as a preventive product, a practice common in some other field crops but new in corn, adding even more dollars to your coffers.
All that corn acreage also posed the new challenge of getting all the herbicide and insecticide application done, especially on taller corn, while not neglecting the soybean crop. To the rescue came the aerial applicators, many of whom traveled from the South and Northeast to spray Midwest corn fields. Because corn spraying occurred during a lull in the flyers’ regular schedules, the tag-team effort with Midwest dealerships worked well; expect more of the same in 2008.
It was the year of the triple deckers — in both seed traits and stacks, as NC+ Hybrids, Monsanto, and DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred brought out new products. There was also the first Quad-Stack hybrid from Dow AgroSciences’ Mycogen Seeds. Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto reached a cross-licensing agreement to launch SmartStax, the first eight-gene stacked combination in corn. Syngenta’s Garst Seed beefed up its ExtraEdge corn hybrids to 20; they exhibit characteristics suitable for dry grind ethanol production. Also, DuPont completed regulatory submissions for its an Optimum GAT trait in corn, staying on track for the anticipated 2010 launch.
There were plenty of other deals, too, including BASF/Monsanto collaborations to develop higher yielding stress-tolerant crops and research soybean cyst nematode controls. Monsanto also struck a series of agreements with Bayer CropScience AG involving the LibertyLink and Roundup Ready technologies.
The biggest news in the crop protection sector, besides the boom in fungicide use, was manufacturers joining forces and sharing resources in an effort to develop better chemistries. For example, FMC and Dow AgroSciences are supplying each other with certain active ingredients (a.i.s) to create a soybean herbicide premix for glyphosate-resistant or -tolerant weeds. FMC’s first herbicide resulting from the agreement, Authority First DF, is already in the market. Shortly after that, FMC Corp. also reached several multi-year a.i. deals with BASF to supply new crop protection products for the U.S. corn and soybean markets. BASF and Monsanto will co-promote the use of BASF’s Headline fungicides in seed trait systems, and Syngenta and Pioneer agreed to co-promote several key crop protection products and corn/soybean seed in 2008.
The need for new modes of action is emphasized by the growing amount of weeds becoming resistant or tolerant of some of the most popular products. Giant ragweed was the weed to watch in soybeans and corn in 2007, while tall waterhemp was a concern as more growers switched to continuous corn.
If you recall the deal when the original Section 18 emergency exemptions were granted for fungicides to battle Asian soybean rust, manufacturers agreed to submit the products for full Section 3 registration within a designated time frame. That time is now upon them, and some products have already been approved for Section 3 use against soybean rust.
Following the pattern of past years, rust stayed in the South for much of the season, but did begin its move northward a little earlier this year, ending up in 19 states. Confirming rust for the first time were Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.