Demanding Challenges

Demand for corn and soybeans — the former fueled by the ethanol boom, the latter spearheaded by depleting global stocks — will provide many challenges for retailers this season. What will be the key crop protection issues in 2008? In no particular order, here’s a look into our crystal ball.

Glyphosate Resistance

Weed resistance/tolerance to glyphosate will continue to be a major concern in 2008, especially if corn-on-corn acreage rises as anticipated. Giant ragweed is the latest weed confirmed as resistant, and Extension officials say johnsongrass and lambsquarters are on the “weeds to watch” list.

To help counteract this resistance/tolerance, herbicide manufacturers continue to introduce preemergence herbicide products with different modes of action.

“From a retailer’s viewpoint, it may be more challenging to sell resistance stewardship to growers,” says Chris Boerboom, University of Wisconsin Extension weed scientist. “But if we try to promote good weed management frequently, the resulting yield protection will often include other herbicides in addition to glyphosate which, as a secondary benefit, should aid in stewardship.”

Preventive Fungicide Use

The practice of using a fungicide for healthier plants and higher yields exploded in the corn market last year. BASF estimates that its Headline fungicide was applied on more than 7 million acres of corn and 3 million-plus acres of soybeans in 2007 — much of it by air.

The company says that in 2007, grower results with Headline applied to corn were similar to previous years, averaging yield increases of 12-16 bushels per acre, with many growers reporting even larger yield increases. Growers and aerial applicators were enthusiastic about these results and continued momentum is expected for 2008, says Dr. Gary Fellows, BASF technical manager.

“We had an astronomical increase in demand for aerial applications this year, from 8,000 to 80,000 acres, and I think we’ll see another big increase in 2008,” says Craig Bair with Ag Flight, Inc., who aerially applies products to crops in the York, NE area. “Customers that treated half their corn acres with Headline this year are saying they’ll treat all of their acres next year.”

Western Bean Cutworm

This particular pest has captured a lot of attention in the past few years, spreading rapidly from eastern Iowa all the way to western Ohio between 2004 and 2007. Kevin Steffey, Extension entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that in many areas, the populations aren’t high enough to be of significant concern. “It isn’t a firmly established corn pest in many areas,” he says.

Steffey recommends that retailers educate their grower-customers about the pest and locate threatening populations through scouting services. “Retailers can help growers plan on controlling Western bean cutworms with Herculex hybrids (from Dow AgroSciences) if they believe that’s necessary,” he says.

Other insect pests to watch for include the variant western corn rootworm. And based on its typical pattern of numbers being up in odd-numbered years and down in even-numbered years, along with evidence that its natural predators are becoming more effective in reducing populations, the soybean aphid isn’t expected to be much of a problem in 2008, says Dan Davidson, DTN analyst.

Asian Soybean Rust

Despite the fact that there hasn’t been a full-blown epidemic in the U.S., soybean rust is becoming an annual problem for growers in the South and Southeast.

“It was earlier, more widespread, and hit soybeans in some areas with some severity,” says Tom Isakeit, Texas A&M University Extension plant pathologist. “It was associated with an unusually wet season. In Texas, most of the new findings were made by scouting commercial fields.”

Just because its appearance deeper into the Corn Belt was too late to threaten yields, retailers and growers should not become complacent, says DTN’s Davidson. Soybean rust also was detected at an ultra low level in far southwest Ontario, Canada, and has been active in two states in Mexico. “One July, we’ll have just the right weather conditions and the right spore load to kickstart an epidemic that will move up from the South, the midSouth, right up into the Corn Belt — and that will be devastating,” he says. “It looks like in most years, we won’t have a problem, but we might get that one year every five or 10 years. We don’t know yet.”

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