While other input costs are going up, chemical manufacturers say you can expect pesticide costs to hold relatively steady for 2006, despite fallout from the hazardous hurricane season last fall.

The primary reason: Herbicide and insecticide costs are more dependent upon supply and demand factors than petroleum costs, says Raymond Massey, agricultural economist for the University of Missouri-Columbia commercial agriculture program.

“Pesticide prices have been independent of fuel prices in the past, and I don't believe that will change now,” he says. “If there is a gain in pesticide costs, it will probably be no more than 1-3% at most, basically no greater than inflation.”

Massey's prediction corresponds well with recent comments made by Vern Hawkins, head of U.S. commercial operations for Syngenta Crop Protection. He anticipates cost increases of roughly 3% for several of the company's crop protection products.

However, that won't be the case for Syngenta's glyphosate-based brands, Touchdown Total and Touchdown HiTech, notes Dan Hinderliter, product brand manager. Retail prices for those products in 2006 will echo prices in 2005, he says. Touchdown Total retails for approximately $32/gal., with Touchdown HiTech retailing for slightly less.

In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved changes to the Touchdown Total and Touchdown HiTech labels in time for the 2006 season. The maximum in-crop use rate was raised to 70 fluid oz./acre for Touchdown Total and 1.8 qts./acre for Touchdown HiTech. The maximum single application was increased to 35 fluid oz./acre for Touchdown Total and 30 fluid oz./acre for Touchdown HiTech. The labels also allow the application of Touchdown brands using drop nozzles over the top of glyphosate-tolerant corn 30-48 in. tall.

Much like Syngenta, Monsanto is opting to hold its Roundup brand prices steady for the upcoming crop season, too. In fact, one price break you can anticipate for 2006 is for Monsanto's premium glyphosate product, Roundup WeatherMax, says Sano Shimoda, president of BioScience Securities, a strategic corporate advisory and investment banking firm, which focuses on agricultural biotechnology.

Shimoda anticipates Roundup WeatherMax will retail for roughly $39/gal., or even slightly lower (about $6-6.50/acre). That price is down from last year's $54/gal. price, reflecting an effort by Monsanto to improve its competitive position in the marketplace. Roundup Original Max, the company workhorse, will retail for approximately $29/gal. (about $4.75-5.25/acre). As always, prices are subject to change, depending upon your retailer.

“I think we're seeing glyphosate prices pretty close to the bottom,” Shimoda adds.

For those growers who plan to use a generic glyphosate, Shimoda says you can anticipate making an investment of between $3-4/acre this coming season.

Both Monsanto and Syngenta reported good volume sales in 2005 of Roundup and Touchdown brands, respectively, with Monsanto recording one of its best Roundup volume sales years in its history, according to Sarah Vacek, marketing manager.

Both companies benefited last season from ongoing product support programs that aimed to reassure growers by providing them with weed-control guarantees, both formal and informal.

For 2006, Monsanto looks to strengthen its position in the marketplace by offering growers the Roundup Tough Weed Warranty. The warranty covers all weeds indicated on the Roundup label, Vacek says. She notes that the warranty is Monsanto's answer for growers who have communicated a need for improved weed control, particularly of tough-to-control weeds such as velvetleaf and common lambsquarters. If control breaks do occur on any labeled weed, following a labeled Roundup application, the company will make any necessary follow-up applications to regain control.

Syngenta offers growers its new AgriEdge corn and soybean program to manage risk, its Touchdown Assurance Plan for 2006 to protect crop protection investments and an online informational forum, www.resistancefighter.com. Growers can use the forum to gather information, ask weed control questions of company representatives and see where glyphosate resistance is occurring.