Seed Systems Top Watch List

The New Year finds many dealers anxiously awaiting a variety of new trait technologies, as seed companies move the newcomers through trials and regulatory requirements. Then too, retailers are trying to find new ways to make the current wide variety of seed available more profitable in light of customers’ escalating demands and climbing seed prices.

The most talked-about traits these days tie in to growing herbicide resistance problems and offer new approaches using long-standing weed control tools. Specifically, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Plus Xtend System allows plants to metabolize dicamba, while Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Weed Control System enables crops to metabolize 2,4-D.

Mike Malone, president of Agri-AFC, Decatur, AL, is one dealer who thinks the new seed will be good for his business and “an excellent tool for resistant weeds.” But he says the technology could present the same problems as Roundup and Liberty. Growers will be tempted to see the systems as one shot over-the-top weed control and neglect following up with vital residual herbicides.

Malone should know about herbicide system “abuse.” His region has faced the now-infamous herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth problems, thanks to bad application strategies.

The leadership team at North Central Farmers Elevator, Ipswich, SD, has talked about the traits internally, especially voicing concerns about how big a challenge the new crops are going to be custom application-wise. “Even in educating farmers …  they get confused between the two traits just talking about them,” says Lane Mielke, director of operations.

He envisions needing to teach growers to keep good records — to make sure they know what they’re planting and make sure they’re telling North Central the right product to put over top of it. “There are certainly going to be some mistakes made over this deal,” he adds.

Part of the problem lies in the compounds’ toxicity and volatility. To address this issue in part, Dow has developed a new premix called Enlist Duo that contains glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D choline that promises ultra-low volatility, minimized potential for drift, lower odor and better handling characteristics than commercially available 2,4-D amine or ester formulations.

Mike Vande Logt, executive vice president and COO, Land O’Lakes Inc., St. Paul, MN, believes use of the dicamba/2,4-D traits will enable the continued use of reduced till and no-till, environmentally friendly systems that will ultimately increase the sustainability of agriculture.

“These systems enable increased water and fuel conservation, thereby decreasing the inputs per bushel,” he says. “This is a real big deal in the world of agriculture.”

Vande Logt says the products’ biggest challenges lie in their stewardship. Improved formulations, drift reduction agents, proper nozzles and the right spray conditions will enable both trait technologies to work safely and effectively.

Dry Times

Dealers we talked with also expressed optimism about the new drought resistant technologies, now at varied stages of trialing, regulatory approval and marketing. Syngenta is offering Artesian, Monsanto has developed DroughtGard and DuPont Pioneer will sell Optimum AQUAmax.

Vande Logt says the drought traits are interesting in light of the fact that growing seasons seem to be getting hotter and drier, especially during grain fill. The technology will also allow corn movement further west into the High Plains.

As long as yields are comparable to non-drought-tolerant seed, Malone thinks the products will be a fit for his company. In fact, in Georgia, where the bulk of his customers’ acreage is irrigated, the seed could help reduce irrigation in some areas.

Located in the central sands of Wisconsin, Jay-Mar Inc. is in a region where “every year has drought-like conditions unless you have irrigation,” says Wayne Solinsky, head of sales. He’ll try the seed, providing they are not priced “too crazy high.”

Indeed, Mielke thinks there’s “a lot of marketing with these products and not a lot of value yet,” but he sees exciting possibilities as the traits progress. He does admit that when growers see the words “drought guard” on a hybrid, they think it’s going to be able to go through anything. “The expectation is higher than it really should be,” he says. Ultimately, he believes sales of the drought products will triple and quadruple, limited only by supplies.

Variable-Rate’s Slow Rise

Variable-rate (VR) planting is being seen as one new way to get the biggest bang from high-tech varieties. Helping growers use this practice is still a work in progress at many dealerships.

Mielke definitely sees the value in VR, and precision planting recommendations are a growth area at North Central. For instance, many growers want to push planting populations every year, but face consistently poor-performing areas in fields. “As a bag of seed gets higher and higher priced every year, customers are wasting dollars planting high populations in those areas,” he explains. Variable planting would put the right seed in the spots identified as generating the highest yields.

Mielke also thinks VR planting will be a good tool for growers in the future to provide calibrated field information to crop insurance companies. The data could eliminate the need for representatives to go out to the farm to measure bins, for example.

One challenge for North Central has been how much to charge for VR recommendations. Growers don’t realize how many man-hours go into processing yield data, and the price can be a sore spot for customers when they get the bill.

Solinsky says VR planting is seeing strong interest from his growers. Jay-Mar already offers VR fertilizer, and VR irrigation is “starting to come on strong.” He says with the varying soil types in sand in his region, the technology makes sense.

So far only a few customers at Agri-AFC are doing precision planting. But through the company’s AccuField precision services, staff can draw up the prescriptions for growers, then send the data out via modem or memory stick. Malone believes that as producers become more comfortable with precision ag and what it can bring to them, this technology will grow.

Seed Relations

Dealers we talked with had a variety of opinions on how seed companies do business and on how they can improve going forward.

Malone says his team has a “tremendous” relationship with its seed partners and works closely with them, particularly in engineering Agri-AFC’s variety trials. In fact, the dealership’s agronomy department has taken some of the load off a few seed companies, planting its own cottonseed trials throughout its territory and sharing the results with these suppliers.

Mielke points out how many brands are actually under the same umbrella of ownership. Yet, “it blows my mind how many wasteful dollars are spent in the industry fighting each other — yet both the seed reps’ paychecks have the same name on them at the end of the day,” he says.

He is also concerned about seed companies’ “bad habit of looking out for number one instead of maybe their customer, unlike what we have to do.”

Bottom line: Solinsky really wishes seed companies would change the way they do business. “They all play the same game,” he says. “They come out with their prices, usually too high, then try to go after other chemical/seed companies by offering bigger discounts to convert them with special deals, but loyal customers get very little.” His advice: Stop the games and drop the price so the price is what it is — so it doesn’t matter how many bags dealers/growers buy, how many extra dollars suppliers will throw in or how many free bags they will throw in.

Solinsky feels cost of seed is one of the biggest challenges facing his business and growers. Seed cannot get so expensive that growers can’t make money. He’s found everyone looks at the corn and soybean commodity prices, then tries to increase seed prices to what the market will bear.

Leave a Reply

State of the Industry Stories

State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More

Trending Articles

ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More