Service Is King For Ag Retailers

The Commodity Classic meeting is a source of endless ideas and fascination for us. While Crop­Life® magazine does not cater directly to farmers, we get a strong sense for where they are mentally going into the season ahead and what sorts of conversations they are having with manufacturers. And that serves us well as we lay down our editorial plans for the remainder of the year in service to ag retailers.

What I came away from this meeting thinking about was just how much help growers are going to need now and in the future with the planning and execution of their cropping plans.

One of the first things we got hit with at the Classic was the growing challenge of dealing with weed resistance. Monsanto and BASF presented updates on Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean trait that’s scheduled to hit the market by 2015 pending registration. And they also shared details on BASF’s new dicamba formulation, Engenia, which promises less volatility than previous formulations and an improved drift profile.

Then they brought out Dr. Robert Wolf, the long-time Kansas State University researcher, who’s forgotten more about spray drift than most people know, to announce an education program designed to raise the “spray IQ” of growers and custom applicators. The On Target Application Academy is likely be coming to a state or local ag event near you, and Dr. Wolf will have his spray table in tow to demonstrate nozzle technology and the effects of speed and pressure and other factors on making an efficacious application.

His message is that application is getting more complex. The days of filling up with glyphosate and cruising the field at 18 miles per hour are over.

Complexity at the grower level is generally good news for retailers who are service-focused, and I think that the increased difficulty in effectively managing weeds — be it putting together a program or properly applying an herbicide — should mean growers have more incentive to “let the professionals handle the work.”

As I was thinking about this, Editor Eric Sfiligoj stopped by my desk with a release from Rabo AgriFinance. It explained that market research it conducted had determined that it is “unlikely that U.S. corn yields will be substantial enough to significantly increase historically low world grain stocks.”

It’s report entitled “Can Corn Keep Up?” asserts that yields are “likely to grow at a much slower rate than historical and trendline analysis would suggest and anticipates 2012 growth will be below current USDA estimates.

“To this point, technology has played an important role in advancing the yield curve,” the report continued. “However, we don’t see game-changing technology on the immediate horizon that would enable producers to make faster strides toward replenishing world stocks.”

Clearly, there are opportunities for well-positioned, service-oriented retailers to help growers to mitigate their risk and generate solid yields.

If you’ve made investments in your service business, now is the time to let them shine. For you, it’s really the moment in agriculture history that we’ve been waiting for.

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