As growers make their pesticide decisions for 2015, it seems they’re faced with a conundrum. Many have less money to spend because of lower commodity prices, but they also need to protect crops to maximize profit-generating yields. Where does the balance lie?
The past couple of years may provide a clue to their leanings. In 2013, retailers saw the first serious signs of crop protection input sales turning around after seven years of stagnation — sales were up half a billion dollars at CropLife 100 dealers. This, even at a time when commodity prices were declining.
For 2014, these same companies reported that products in the pesticide category were at their highest market share in eight years (31% of all crop input/services revenues). Clearly, growers are affirming the value here.
Resistance A Catalyst
In 2015, Jeff Tarsi, vice president of strategy and international retail at Crop Production Services, Cordova, TN, believes herbicide sales will be very strong. “With commodity pricing down, the importance of maximizing yields is even stronger,” he emphasizes.
He cites one key factor for crop protection purchases: “With land values as high as they are, the investment of premium crop protection products is essential in keeping this investment clean of resistant weeds.”
Greg Musson, president of Gar Tootelian Inc., Reedley, CA, says pre-emergent herbicides have definitely made a comeback, as he’s found post emergent product effectiveness is spotty on some resistant weeds.
He describes how this trend played out in his region: “Our 2014 spreader/adjuvant sales were off 15% indicating much less 2014 spraying activity,” he says. “Accounting for much of this loss was a switch to pre-emergent herbicides, which meant far fewer post emergent herbicide sprays.”
In Gar Tootelian’s specialty crop market, the combined effect of thousands of acres of tree fruit being pulled, a continuing California drought and the university talking down the benefit of almond dormant sprays helped reduce “dormant” sprays and oil usage, some 8%.
“Resistance is playing a huge role in our part of the world,” says Kathy Sims, president of Sims Fertilizer & Chemical Co., Osborne, KS. “We think glyphosate sales are continuing to go down. Glyphosate is not the big dog it used to be.”
But while many tough weeds have shown some level of glyphosate selection for resistance, glyphosate does remain a key part of many herbicide programs. It is what growers use with glyphosate that will help “weed out” that resistance selection in fields, Sims says.
No look at 2015 would be complete without news on the 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant herbicide systems, designed to combat resistant weeds.
Federal agencies deregulated Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist corn and soybeans (2.4-D-tolerant) in September 2014 and registered Enlist Duo herbicide in October.
Enlist Duo will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Participating farmers planting Enlist corn will be required to adhere to a thorough set of stewardship protocols and requirements. Select farmers will be able to use Enlist soybeans under the company’s Field Forward program. Dow AgroSciences will manage the soybean seed production throughout the season, including handling and storage after harvest.
At presstime, Monsanto was still awaiting USDA approval for its Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System with dicamba tolerance.
Touching On Specific Products
Retailers we talked to shared a few reports on particular products that may be popular in 2015, in light of sales last year.
Sims says Authority and Fierce on soybeans and Zidua on wheat were some of her company’s best sellers because they were effective on resistant weeds.
At Asmus Farm Supply (AFS), Rake, IA, popular products last year for beans included sulfentrazone premixes as a preemerge treatment. Co-owner Amy Asmus says this is a great chemistry and “just works” with less of a chance for crop injury when applied correctly. As a rule, if growers are not using anything as a residual product in the soil for beans, they’re doing themselves a disservice, she believes.
Over the top of beans, AFS’s most popular items were fomesafen premixes or Lactofen. Asmus admits they will burn the crop a little but do take care of the weeds.
In corn, a preemerge product is also a must, she notes, saying “they’re all about the same — some have a single mode of action and some have several modes of action — but you just need to use one.” Over-the-top in corn, AFS staff like the HPPD chemistries and the dicamba products.
On the West Coast, Musson says an Alion and Matrix SG program sold particularly well in 2014 because the products did “a pretty good job” on hard to control flaxleaf fleabane and marestail. Unfortunately, he sees a lot less Alion selling in
2015, due to “needless label changes by Bayer, which have neutered Alion sales.” Maximum use rates now have a restriction based on soil organic matter content. And the label now restricts Alion use in flood-irrigated orchards and prohibits irrigation within 48 hours after applications.
Insecticides & Fungicides
While herbicide sales may be strong in 2015, dealers we talked with had mixed feelings about insecticides and fungicides, perhaps in part because unpredictable weather can play a large role in problems developing here.
For instance, Sims noted that a very bad drought in most of her company’s trade area dampened sales in these two product categories in 2014.
Asmus also saw a decline, but she noted that other factors such as new previsions of the Farm Bill which included types of revenue protection insurance came into play.
“Last year, I believe that growers made input decisions based on what would maximize their profitability for the year (as any good business person would do),” she says. “Some practices — and I would include certain fungicide and insecticide applications in that camp — are shown to increase yield, but they come at a cost. With a guaranteed income from insurance programs, these costs and practices are viewed as optional and therefore, unless the crop was in danger of large yield losses from pathogens or insects, growers chose not to use those inputs in 2014.”
But Asmus says decisions in 2015 will no longer be based on guaranteed income via insurance programs but on maximizing profitability by increasing production. Hence, she expects to see decisions to use more fungicides in production in 2015.
Asmus says she’s still not sure where growers will land on insecticides, especially soil insecticides, but her gut tells her use will be up a little.