Mining The Market

It’s CropLife® 100 time.

Well, maybe not for you readers, but around here we kick off our annual, comprehensive research project in mid-August with the construction of a print and e-mail survey. That means that by the time summer has begun to wind down, we’ve already hashed out what we think are the big issues of the day, and we’re getting ready to ask you to weigh in. It’s the beginning of a project that will culminate in our CropLife 100 issue in December, one of our most anticipated of the year.

It’s a fun time for us, because so many retail organizations contribute, and it really serves to help us gauge our own ideas about the state of the retail channel against a large segment of the “real world.” Sometimes you prop up our notions, and other times you crush some egos. Either way, it’s a great learning experience.

Of course, there are some preliminary things we’ll be watching especially closely going into this, our 23rd annual market sweep. In no particular order, here they are:

Consolidation Continues. This as been an eventful year for a couple of the largest organizations. Agrium Retail made the biggest move, acquiring Royster-Clark to give its Crop Production Services division a new, significant footprint in the Southeast. More recently, Agriliance moved further west, acquiring Wilco Farmers in the Pacific Northwest. You can read more about that particular deal in next month’s CropLife magazine.

Biofuels. Much has been said and written about the potential growth opportunities in biofuels, in particular corn-based ethanol and biodiesel from soybeans. Certainly, momentum alone is driving the construction of corn ethanol plants and serving to shift the planting intentions of growers. This should come as good news for retailers of course — more corn means more fertilizer and herbicide business in the long run. We’ll be taking a closer look at short and long term trends in biofuels in a November CropLife special report.

Herbicide Resistance Manage­ment. Monsanto expects that fully half the corn acres planted in 2007 will feature the Roundup Ready trait, to go along with the approximately 90% of soybean acres planted to the glyphosate resistant varieties. Now more than ever the grower needs his or her retailer to weigh in on the issue of managing risk and yield through better weed management. Growers in general have not been receptive to the message, but they need to understand the importance of looking beyond the glyphosate application to really get a handle on weed control.

Challenges And Opportunities. In early 2003, we worked with Purdue University on a study of retailer challenges and opportunities that provided a fascinating look into the state of the distribution channel. We’re going to dedicate a portion of our CropLife 100 research to let retailers again rank their biggest challenges and most significant opportunities to discover what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what are the top trends going into the next season.

There’s certainly no shortage of issues to cover, and we’re looking forward to bring you to full report later this year. Here’s wishing you and your grower customers a successful harvest and fall application season.

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