A Good Time To Be In Agriculture

To appreciate just how strong the agricultural market is today, an observer need only to have looked around the halls of The Gaylord Palms hotel in Orlando, FL, during the annual Commodity Classic. Presented jointly by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, the 2013 event attracted a record 6,214 attendees to hear educational sessions and see ag exhibitors during the final week of February. More impressive still, 1,078 of this total were first-time non-exhibitor visitors.

“By the growth of attendance at Commodity Classic, it’s clear that farmers are seeing the advantage of coming to this great show,” said Co-Chair Bob Worth. “The quality of the trade show and all of the educational opportunities makes attendees happy to come back year after year, and invite their neighbors and friends.”

One of these educational opportunities occurred early at the event as Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack provided the keynote address during the general session. Making his fourth appearance at the Commodity Classic, Vilsack discussed the sequester issue that has gripped Washington, DC, and encouraged growers to continue pushing Congress for a five-year Farm Bill.

“We are fewer and fewer folks living in rural America, and fewer and fewer people who call themselves farmers,” said Vilsack. “We’ve got to figure out ways in which to enlarge our political relevance.”

Exhibitor Action

Besides the sessions, most folks attending the 2013 Commodity Classic were there to check out the exhibitors. And as with the overall show, the number of exhibitors continues to climb, with all 1,010 booths sold for the 2013 event.

As in years past, crop protection product manufacturers used Commodity Classic as a vehicle to get information out to the agricultural community. To be expected, the topic of weed resistance and its spread across the nation’s fields took center stage in many of these discussions.

“In 2012, there was an increase of 50% of the number of glyphosate-resistant weeds compared with the previous year,” said Damon Palmer, commercial leader for Enlist at Dow AgroSciences. “In part, this was probably driven by the nationwide drought because it’s much harder to kill weeds when it’s hot and dry.”

For its part in combating resistant weeds, Dow AgroSciences continues to look to the 2014 planting season, when its 2,4-D resistant Enlist corn should be approved for the market. Enlist soybeans are expected to follow in 2015.

Another crop protection maker looking at the weed resistance issue at Commodity Classic was Monsanto Co. Last year, the St. Louis, MO-based biotech giant announced plans to launch its Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System in time for the 2014 planting season. This includes the introduction of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, which contain glyphosate and dicamba tolerance to help growers deal with hard-to-control weeds.

In preparation for this debut, Monsanto has set up 19 Learning Xperience sites around the country, with sessions slated to begin this year. According to Michelle Vigna, Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System launch manager, Learning Xperience participants will learn how to use Roundup Ready PLUS platform recommendations in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and other Roundup Ready crops. “They will also receive training on the system’s application requirements and important new herbicide label language,” said Vigna.

Also on the new front, FMC Agricultural Products Group has introduced Marvel herbicide for soybeans. According to the company, this new herbicide provides growers with a more aggressive tank-mix partner for postemergence control of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

“Weeds are getting stronger and adapting quickly to glyphosate treatments,” said Matt Foster, FMC agricultural products North America product manager. “Marvel battles that strength and maximizes control of weeds that are resistant to other herbicides.”

Bayer CropScience also discussed weed control issues with attendees. For 2013, the company plans to introduce four new varieties under the HBK Seed name that contain the LibertyLink trait for full tolerance to Liberty herbicide. In particular, said Troy Hornbeck, U.S. soybean brand operations manager for Bayer CropScience, growers in the South should find these new varieties useful in fighting the spread of resistant marestail and Palmer amaranth.

“With LibertyLink technology, growers have confidence that they can boost their bottom line by controlling yield-robbing weeds,” said Hornbeck. “Our new HBK LibertyLink varieties have been field-tested to be highly effective in Southern regions, including those overrun with glyphosate-resistant weeds.”

In addition, Bayer CropScience also announced plans to develop a new soybean trait called Balance GT with dual herbicide tolerance to glyphosate and isoxaflutole. The company is working with MS Technologies on this effort and expects to have the first Balance GT soybeans ready in time for the 2015 planting season.

While also looking at weed control issues, a pair of other crop protection companies discussed some recent internal moves with Commodity Classic visitors. For example, at BASF, Paul Rea, vice president of U.S. crop protection, talked about how his company’s 2012 acquisition of Becker Underwood is progressing.

“With Becker Underwood in our portfolio, BASF has created a new global business called Functional Crop Care,” said Rea. “This will include three distinct areas – plant health, seed treatment and water and nitrogen management.”

Over at the Chemtura AgroSolutions booth, the company talked about its new DoubleTake insecticide. According to Don Guy, marketing manager, ag chem, DoubleTake has two modes of action, working as a neurotoxic and insect growth regulator.

“DoubleTake can be used by growers to combat some of today’s most difficult to control pests,” said Guy. “This includes kudzu bugs, armyworms and, perhaps most importantly, the brown marmorated stink bug.” He added that Chemtura expects to receive EPA registration for DoubleTake later this year.

Meanwhile, DuPont Crop Protection shared progress on its PrecisionPac herbicide dispensing system for ag retailers. Currently in use in 35 retail locations in 10 states for use on wheat, PrecisionPac dispenses up to six different weed control products at fully customizable rates in a safe, closed system.

In addition to safety and stewardship advantages, retailers enjoy the benefit of not actually being invoiced for the product until it is dispensed. PrecisionPac records dispensing activities and wirelessly transmits the information to DuPont for invoicing.

A broader push into wheat markets is on tap for 2013, and a PrecisionPac system designed for corn will be pilot released in 2014.

Precision Ag Highlights

Another very busy exhibitor category at the 2013 Commodity Classic involved makers of precision agriculture equipment. Several companies introduced new products to attendees.

One of these came from Raven Industries, which introduced its SmarTrax MD at the show. According to Paul Welbig, director of marketing, business development and Slingshot operations, SmarTrax MD is a simple-to-install assisted steering system which features two times more torque and 3D terrain compensation. It can operate with several of Raven’s existing units including the Cruizer, Envizio Pro and Viper.

Meanwhile, Topcon Precision Agriculture (TPA) launched its AGI-4, the industry’s first completely integrated steering solution that the company claims “can simply and easily interface with many manufacturer’s virtual terminals.” The AGI-4 features multiple-constellation GNSS satellite reception, state-of-the-art inertial sensors for full terrain compensation as well as Topcon’s line acquisition and on-line steering functionality.

“The AGI-4 is an industry first in all-in-one integrated receiver/steering controllers,” said Kevin Cobb, TPA director of product management. “It comes standard with WAAS and EGNOS steering functionality and an RTK communication module is also an available option.”

Over at the TeeJet Technologies booth, the company was touting its newly launched Sentry 6120. This is a droplet size monitor that can help operators improve their spray applications by providing real-time, in‐cab droplet size information. “Drift or efficacy problems caused by applying droplets that are too large or too small can be better managed with the Sentry 6120 Droplet Size Monitor,” said Tim Stuenkel, global marketing communications manager.

The stand‐alone unit features an image‐based interface. Once spraying begins, the monitor measures the boom operating pressure and displays the corresponding droplet size category. “Audible and visual alarms are used to notify operators when system pressure deviates from a predetermined range,” said Stuenkel. “This enables the operator to adjust ground speed and system pressure to maintain the proper droplet size.”

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