Agriculture: A Need For The Long View

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Recently, I read an article detailing money troubles at Walmart. In an effort to boost overall sales, it seems that the retailing giant has cut back on the number of workers at many of its stores. As a consequence, the company’s supply chain is breaking down, with too few employees on hand to physically move products from the storeroom to shelves.

Some places, said the article, this practice is affecting company sales. “To gain short-term results, Walmart is hurting its long-term image,” said one analyst.

I think this is an excellent lesson for members of the agricultural community to remember as well. As everyone knows, the past few years have been tough on some grower-customers as herbicide-resistant weeds continue to spread across many acres of farmland.

To combat this threat to crop yields and revenue, many ag retailers have made a series of recommendations to their growers on how to control these weeds and curb their spread. This has included using multiple modes of action products and not spraying weeds that are over six inches in height (when they are more likely to survive).

However, despite dispensing this good advice, many ag retailers have told me they are regularly rebuffed by their grower-customers regarding many of these best weed management practices. “Most of them don’t seem to want to listen to my agronomic advice,” many dealer reps have told me.

When I’ve pointed this out to some growers, many of them have acknowledged that they chose to ignore this good advice. “I know I shouldn’t spray a weed that’s over six inches tall because it might develop resistance,” they say. “But if I even slow the weed’s growth a little bit, my yield will go up and I will make more money for that season.”

So as with Walmart, these growers are willing to take the short-term financial gain at the expense of long-term agronomic stability.

Unfortunately, this problem doesn’t look like it will be limited to growers. In our May 2013 issue, CropLife® is looking at the topic of managing spray drift better, recommending ways custom applicators can achieve on-target results.

But according to some industry experts, custom applicators have been use to applying a single product, glyphosate. Adding different and new herbicides to the mix will require potentially more complicated application methods. This could include lowering today’s longer spray booms, driving at slower speeds and leaving larger buffer zones as products such as dicamba and 2,4-D become more common.

“Higher speeds and higher booms can lead to less coverage and poorer weed control,” said one expert. “Neither is a good scenario if you want to be a profitable application business.”

I would call this sound advice. Obviously, everyone who makes their living in agriculture should always be trying to make more money. However, doing so in the here-and-now without giving any thought to what happens tomorrow isn’t sustainable. If you don’t believe me, just ask Walmart.

Sfiligoj is the Editor for both CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines. He travels regularly to cover industry events and has been dedicated to the ag retail industry since he joined the staff in 2000.
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