2012 Commodity Classic: Optimism Abounds

Although it hasn’t been around that long relative to some of the other agricultural trade events, the annual Commodity Classic has nonetheless become a showplace for ag-based companies to launch new products or discuss key industry trends. The 2012 edition of the show, held in early March in Nashville, TN, was no exception, with no fewer than one dozen exhibitors using the show to promote their products and programs to agricultural leaders.

And apparently, word of the Com­modity Classic’s importance is starting to spread among those in the agricultural community. According to its organizers, the 2012 show surpassed all previous turnout records with a total of 6,014 attendees. This represented a 25% increase from the 2011 record of 4,826 attendees. Once again, farm families represented over half of the participants, with 3,505 growers, spouses and children attending.

“We broke records in every category,” said Commodity Classic Co-Chair Martin Barbre. “However, the most exciting number was beating last year’s record of first-time attendees by 48%. It’s very gratifying to see that Commodity Classic’s appeal continues to grow.” Billed as “the only national agricultural convention and trade show put on by farmers for farmers,” the Commodity Classic is presented annually by the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Sorghum Producers.

And the event attracts some of the nation’s top speakers from the world of agriculture. For example, in his third appearance before General Session attendees, Secretary of Agri­culture Tom Vilsack discussed the importance of an adequate crop insurance program and creating a greater understanding in government of the real world impact of regulations on farming operations. He spoke ardently about passing the Farm Bill this year.

“It’s important for all of you to get engaged in this opportunity to support the leaders of the commodity groups as they express on your behalf the need for a Farm Bill now,” said Vilsack, “and not to accept from members of Congress or the Senate how hard this is going to be and how difficult it is to get consensus in Washington.”

The Exhibitor Game

Besides speakers, the Commodity Classic is known for its impressive exhibitor numbers. According to its organizers, the 963-booth trade show for the 2012 show was sold out with a waiting list of interested parties ready to take advantage of cancelations. And many of these exhibitors used the Commodity Classic venue to talk about causes near and dear to their corporate mindsets and new product offerings that will soon make their market debuts.

First up, as has been the case for the past seven years, was Bayer Crop­Science with its annual Ag Issues Forum (AIF). A two-day event held just proir to the main Commodity Classic, this year’s AIF looked at a wide range of agricultural-related topics including global food security, food waste and sustainability. But perhaps the highlight of the event was a panel discussion looking at the ever-growing problem of herbicide resistant weeds. As Dr. Aaron Hager, associate professor of the weed science department of crop sciences at the University of Illinois, weed control in the glyphosate era used to be a fairly simple matter, with this “all-purpose” herbicide serving as the only solution.

But that’s no longer the case. “I come from an era where weed control for growers was very simple,” said Hager. “But now, you are seeing growers dealing with resistant weeds going back to using more residuals products to try to get back to this level of control. But there’s no simple fix to this problem.”

Dr. Larry Steckel, associate professor, plant sciences at the University of Tennessee, echoed these views. “In Tennesses in 2011, we lost more soybean fields to resistant pigweed than we did in the previous five years combined,” said Steckel. “Unfortunately, when it comes to glyphosate, we’ve taken the best weed control product we are likely to see in our lifetime and run it off a cliff.”

Steckel added that his next biggest fear when it comes to resistant weeds is they won’t stop with just being able to fend off glyphosate applications. “I’m afraid that in the future, we will lose both PPOs and Liberty, too,” he said.
Hager added that if the agricultural community starts finding weeds biotypes that are resistant to both PPOs and glyphosate at the same time, “then these can’t be controlled through spraying.”

Other crop protection companies also sounded the alarm when it comes to resistant weeds. According to Paul Rea, vice president, U.S. crop protection for BASF, the problem was particularly bad during 2011 in parts of the Southern U.S. “In Georgia in 2011, our research showed that 92% of growers had to hand weed their acres, which cost them an estimated $16 million in labor costs,” said Rea. “On top of that, these hard-to-control weeds reduced the yields on these fields by some $110 million.”

Rea added that BASF is planning to bring three new herbicides to the market during 2012 which will hopefully aid in growers’ efforts to retake some of their cropland from resistant weed species. These include Armezon (a HPPD inhibitor) and Engenia, described by the company as “a next generation dicamba formulation.”

Not to be outdone, Monsanto Co. announced the introduction of its new Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System. Designed to provide growers with more consistent, flexible control of weeds, especially tough-to-manage and glyphosate-resistant weeds to maximize crop yield potential, the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System will be available in all Monsanto soybean brands, and broadly licensed to independent seed companies once approved. This system is expected to be available to U.S. growers for the 2014 growing season, consisting of a new soybean trait solution and a next-generation herbicide formulation.

Roundup Ready 2 Xtend is Monsanto’s newest Genuity soybean trait that includes tolerance to dicamba. This trait will also be stacked with the current Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean trait technology, which offers growers the highest yield opportunity with more beans per pod and more bushels per acre. According to Monsanto, this will be the industry’s first biotech-stacked traits in soybeans, offering tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. Roundup Xtend is an enhanced dicamba and glyphosate herbicide premix that will enable growers to manage weeds before planting and as an over-the-top-option during the season in conjunction with Roundup Ready Xtend crops. With dual modes of action, this low-volatility formulation will give growers an additional choice for broad control of glyphosate-resistant and tough-to-control broadleaf weeds and extend application and planting flexibility, as well as the window for post-emergence applications.

“Today, Roundup Ready PLUS provides farmers with solutions for effective weed control. The Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System is designed to offer future solutions and choice within Roundup Ready PLUS. It represents another step forward in empowering farmers to optimize yield through effective and economical weed control,” said Matt Helms, Monsanto’s U.S. Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System launch lead.

At Dow AgroSciences, the company unveiled Enlist Ahead, a first-of-its-kind management resource for growers, and the newest component of the Enlist Weed Control System. Enlist Ahead is being developed with extensive input from growers and other key stakeholders and is designed to help growers succeed while promoting responsible use of the Enlist system. Built on a three-pillar foundation, Enlist Ahead will offer growers, applicators and retailers technology advancements; education, tools and training; and management recommendations.

Pending regulatory approvals, the Enlist Weed Control System will be offered in corn, soybeans and cotton, and will provide tolerance to Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. Enlist Duo herbicide is a proprietary blend of glyphosate and new 2,4-D choline.

“Enlist Ahead represents a fresh look at sustainable agriculture,” said Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader, Enlist Weed Control System, Dow AgroSciences. “This resource is the result of input from farmers, sensitive crop growers, academics, retailers and other stakeholders, who told us what they need to feel confident with the adoption of new weed control technology and management into the future. Using that knowledge, we are building this comprehensive resource with the grower and applicator in mind.”

Equipment Moves

In addition to crop protection manufacturers using the 2012 Commodity Classic, several equipment makers also announced new plans or highlighted their products at the event. One of the biggest splashes was made by John Deere.

At the show, the company took the opportunity to announces the launch of its final Tier 4/Stage IV regulations for off-highway diesel engines. Beginning as early as 2013, engines 55 kW (74 hp) and below will have to meet these standards, said the company. Regulatory dates for engines 56 kW (75 horsepower) and above will be implemented in stages starting in 2014 and 2015, and require particulate matter levels established by Interim Tier 4/Stage III B regulations to be maintained while requiring an additional 80% reduction in nitrogen oxides from previous regulations.

To meet Final Tier 4/Stage IV emissions regulations in some power categories, John Deere has developed the Integrated Emissions Control system — an optimized aftertreatment solution paired with the performance enhanced, fuel-efficient Interim Tier 4/Stage III B engine platform featuring proven cooled exhaust gas recirculation. The John Deere Integrated Emissions Control system will consist of a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system specifically designed to meet the demands of off-highway applications.

“At John Deere, we continue to offer the right combination of technologies at the right time to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations and customer needs,” said John Piasecki, director of worldwide marketing, sales and customer support for John Deere Power Systems. “Exhaustive research and testing determined that an application-specific SCR system that is well integrated with our proven Interim Tier 4/Stage III B engine platform will be the best solution to achieve Final Tier 4/Stage IV emissions compliance while delivering the power, performance, ease of operation, fluid efficiency, reliability and economical operating cost that our customers expect from John Deere.”

Consisting of an exhaust filter and SCR aftertreatment components that are optimized and fully integrated, the Integrated Emissions Control system will allow John Deere engines to utilize less diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) than alternative Interim Tier 4/Stage III B SCR technology solutions. Lower DEF consumption means DEF tank size can be smaller — minimizing the impact on vehicle applications, extending DEF filter service intervals and reducing operator involvement.

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