Insecticide Manufacturers Battle Resistance, Weather Concerns

Soybean aphids
Soybean aphids

As we all very-well know, this past year brought about some unique challenges for the industry from a crop protection standpoint. Insects that normally would have hit Midwestern fields the hardest appeared in greater numbers in the South, mostly due to the drought conditions that took hold mid-summer throughout the Corn Belt.

Prior to that, in March University of Illinois Extension researchers notified EPA that they had confirmed resistance in corn rootworms to Monsanto’s “Cry3Bb1” trait, sending many in the industry scrambling to find a new mode of action for 2013 to combat these yield-robbing pests.

With many climate predictions forecasting a similar weather pattern for the 2013 growing season, manufacturers have updated existing products, as well as submitted a few new ones for registration in 2013, giving growers and retailers an expanded toolbox in order to fight these ever-evolving pests.

Reformulating Products

Dow AgroSciences set out this year to improve an existing foliar product, Cobalt, by decreasing volatility. The finished product is the recently EPA-registered Cobalt Advanced, which reportedly offers an improved ratio of the two modes of action in the original Cobalt, which the company says results in a broader spectrum of insect control, as well as lower odor characteristics.

“Cobalt Advanced is an improvement from the old Cobalt, and it was in limited supply in 2012 but will be broadly available in 2013,” says Pedro Carlucci, Cobalt Advanced product manager. “In 2012, we wanted key growers and retailers to give the product a trial, and we are very excited to say that retailers saw really good results from both an insect control and value-offered standpoint.”

One of the main differences between the two products is Cobalt Advanced’s lower odor, allowing it to be deployed in high-population areas where odor may be a concern.

“As we continue to see more and more urban sprawl around major cities, odor has become an issue,” says Carlucci. “With Cobalt Advanced, that concern goes away, making this an even better product for retailers to offer to their growers.”

Another differentiating factor in Cobalt Advanced is the chemistry of the formulation itself.

“Formulation is what sets this product apart from similar products in the market. We’ve broken the components of these two modes of action down to the microscopic level, ensuring two modes of action are contained in every single spray droplet,” says Carlucci. “That gives retailers the peace of mind in knowing that every single droplet is effective, and the improved formulation is very stable.”

Other benefits of Cobalt Advanced include improved knockdown, longer residual staying power and two modes of action for resistance management, according to Carlucci.

For 2013, Carlucci expects corn rootworms and soybean aphids to continue their prevalence.

“History has shown that typically after a low soybean aphid infestation year, the very next season they come back stronger, in even greater numbers,” says Carlucci.

Luckily, Dow has another product expected to hit the market in 2013 to alleviate those pressures, regulatory approvals pending.

Transform WG is in the development pipeline and features a new chemistry and unique mode of action to deal with sap-feeding insects.

“Some noteworthy attributes of this upcoming technology include systemic and translaminar activity, fast knockdown and extended residual,” says Carlucci.

As for the company’s bug-fighting philosophy, nothing has changed. Carlucci still advises retailers to be vigilant in scouting fields and identifying pests and their level of infestation, and applying the right products at the right time.

Weather Challenges

Craig Abell, Syngenta crop specialist, categorized 2012 as a “challenging” year for the company’s insecticide portfolio.

“We had a hot and dry summer, and with that came an increase in earworm pressure,” says Abell. “Earworm feeding was a problem across the Midwest and the environmental conditions were just about perfect for the development of aflatoxin in corn grain.”

According to Abell, Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera trait proved effective in dealing with aflatoxin issues.

“We had some growers along the I-70 corridor that had aflatoxin levels at 300 parts per billion (ppb) or greater, and where we had Agrisure Viptera we saw levels drop to pretty much around 0 to 20 ppb or less,” says Abell. “We even had a seed trial where we had these things side-by-side and it was amazing the difference we saw with Agrisure Viptera.”

Syngenta also had an aflatoxin prevention solution, Afla-Guard GR biocontrol agent, available in 2012 which contains a non-toxic spore that displaces the aflatoxin.

According to Abell, Syngenta’s new Besiege foliar insecticide is quickly becoming the industry standard in corn and the company hopes to extend that product line into soybeans with EPA registration anticipated in the first quarter of 2013.

On the trait side of things, corn rootworm resistance to Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 trait is a growing concern for growers in pockets of the Midwest, although Syngenta does offer a solution in that regard.

“We’ve found that a full label rate application of Force insecticide, applied in-furrow and underneath traited hybrids helps give growers full control of resistant rootworms and secondary pests,” says Abell. “Not to mention the average 10 to 12 bushels per acre response in yield we’ve typically seen with this system.”

For 2013, the Agrisure Duracade trait continues on its path to deregulation and market adoption by 2014. A new trait for rootworms that “forms a durable barricade and expresses a unique protein (eCry3.1Ab) that binds differently in the gut of target insects.” Abell says the trait reduced corn rootworm beetle emergence by 99.79% in USDA studies, a figure higher than any other product on the market.

“Down the road, we’re very excited about our ability to offer dual mode of action products stacked with proprietary traits,” says Abell.

“With so many different products out there, it’s becoming an art form, choosing which insecticide to use, because timing is so critical as opposed to other inputs,” concludes Abell. “The good news is at Syngenta, we have multiple solutions to control insects in corn or soybeans, in any life cycle stage.”

Feature Foliars

Meanwhile, BASF Crop Protection continues to innovate in the foliar insecticides arena, especially with high commodity prices driving increased foliar applications throughout the season.

“We’re historically very strong in herbicides, fungicides and plant health products, and we’re beginning to expand into a broader range of insecticides,” says Luke Bozeman, technical market manager. “There’s a continued interest in protecting as much yield as possible, and maintaining a good insect control strategy is a good component of that. Every single bushel counts.”

In 2012, the Research Triangle Park, NC-based giant reported relative success with Respect insecticide. “Respect performed very well, but we have a product that we think is going to perform even better than Respect,” says Bozeman.

Replacing Respect is Fastac, an insecticide that has been marketed in other areas of the world, but will be new to the U.S. market, pending EPA approval. A broad-spectrum, fourth-generation synthetic Pyrethroid insecticide with reported high activity on many key crop pests, including soybean aphids, Fastac is expected to receive registration in time for the 2013 growing season. It also boasts excellent tank mix compatibility on soybeans with Priaxor fungicide, which was registered for use in mid-2012.

“BASF is really looking forward to a successful launch of Fastac in 2013 and building a bigger insecticide portfolio,” says Bozeman. “Providing another option to growers so that they can maximize yield and get as much out of each acre is very important to us.”

In 2012, Bayer CropScience observed its market for insecticides expand further into the South as more Southern growers switch to corn and soybean rotations that bring with them new pest pressures, according to Strategic Marketing Product Manager Lee Hall.

“Traditionally, the largest usage of insecticides has been in the southern cotton growing states,” says Hall. “With all the change and influx in the farm scape that we’ve seen, with more of those growers switching to corn and beans, you’re going to see more and more products from Bayer to fight those insect pressures.”

Several Bayer products performed well this year in that regard, first and foremost Belt insecticide, which is used on caterpillar pests.

“We launched Belt in soybeans in 2011 and we’ve seen dramatic growth with that product, primarily in southern geographies where Pyrethroid resistance is an issue,” says Hall. “It’s a very effective, very unique product in that it is very specific and doesn’t disrupt beneficial insects.”

Like Belt, Leverage 360, a broad-spectrum that controls soybean aphids and stink bugs, performed very well in southern areas dealing with plantbugs. “Historically Leverage 360 has been a tool for Midwestern soybean growers to manage aphid populations, but with drought conditions aphid populations never developed this year,” says Hall.

In corn, Baythroid XL was used widely at planting for cutworms. “Baythroid XL enjoyed a big market push early in the season before the drought hit.”

Also notable was the banner year Bayer’s Poncho/VOTiVO insecticide seed treatment enjoyed, offering corn rootworm control and good root zone health benefits, says Hall.

As for 2013, Lee reports that although Bayer doesn’t expect to have any new products registered in the calendar year, growers can expect to see a new foliar, broad-spectrum insecticide in the next three or four years.

In the meantime, Bayer’s recent acquisition of AgraQuest Inc., which will operate under the designation Bayer Biologics, is keeping the multi-national giant quite busy.

“With the acquisition of AgraQuest, Bayer continues to ramp-up its investment efforts in product innovation and research and development,” says Hall. “With all the changes we’re seeing in the farm scape, there’s a need for more Integrated Pest Management friendly products, and Bayer hopes to fill that need.”

Classic Situation

MANA Crop Protection experienced a classic situation in 2012: High demand for insecticide products led to the company selling out much of their inventory before the end of the growing season, according to Senior Product Leader Dave Downing.

“MANA’s corn and soybean insecticides performed extremely well this past year, even under extreme drought conditions in pockets across the Midwest,” says Downing. “In 2012, we also experienced high demand for several of our new KlearSky formulation insecticides which were launched in limited supply. Without question — everything that went out exceeded market expectation in performance and handling attributes.”

Downing continues by saying that mites were an issue for several Midwest locations, another reason for increased insecticide use in key geographies.

“MANA’s chlorpyrifos and bifenthrin products were completely sold out to accommodate urgent insect control demands,” he says.

As for 2013, Downing says growers should stay alert for increased insect pressure, especially if the winter remains “soft.” “Scouting for pests early and often will be important. And if we have another dry year, insects will move to moisture-rich fields versus fields suffering from lack of rainfall,” he adds.

This coming season, MANA will introduce several new state-of-the-art formulations for broad-spectrum insect control on both corn and soybeans, plus many other crops, according to Downing.

“New Skyraider insecticide/miticide is a premix of two premium products. It provides excellent speed of insect knockdown and delivers long-lasting residual activity for use on soybeans and other key crops,” said Downing. “The multiple modes of action in Skyraider make it a perfect fit for most resistance management platforms, which is an emerging need for growers in the immediate.”

MANA expects EPA registration of Skyraider in time for the 2013 season.

Additionally, MANA recently launched Paradigm insecticide, which is an advanced-generation Pyrethroid for use on corn, soybeans and more. Downing says this lambda-cyhalothrin chemistry hosts an innovative formulation that has low odor and less-restrictive handling and safety features, which is a bonus for applicators.

“Paradigm has a broad-spectrum control that goes after a wide range of pests including armyworms, cutworms, loopers, beetles and aphids.”

Paradigm is designated by MANA as a KlearSky Technology brand, meaning the product “achieves a new standard in formulation technology versus conventional active ingredients,” according to the company.

“KlearSky products have reduced impact on the environment and provide a better user experience through various enhanced product features. Depending on the product, those features may include lower odor, less personal protective equipment requirements and/or a reduced signal word,” says Downing. “When growers see the KlearSky logo associated with a MANA product, they’ll know the offering will provide dependable performance while simplifying handling or application.”

Vulcan insecticide, another new MANA entry with the KlearSky designation, is the first advanced chlorpyrifos products of its kind for use in corn, soybeans and wheat, according to MANA.

“This product has fast insect knockdown, the highest level of overall performance in its class and maintains its fuming action to enhance efficacy under its new advanced formulation,” adds Downing. “Plus it has lower odor in comparison to other EC-based chlorpyrifos products.”

Fanfare ES insecticide/miticide is also coming this season. MANA reports that this new formulation replaces its Fanfare 2EC product. Fanfare ES has broad-spectrum control on soil and foliar pests, as well as extremely fast activity and the added value of residual control. Plus the new formulation has big improvements in user safety with reduced odor and risk to skin sensitivity. Fanfare ES will be a KlearSky brand.

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