Planning can save cost, alleviate shortages of high-demand herbicides

By Dave Downing

Senior Marketing Manager

Makhteshim Agan of North America (MANA)

You don’t need a weather report to see a perfect storm brewing in the agrichemical market as factors on several economic fronts collide. High oil prices. A declining dollar. More acres going into production. Widespread adoption of biotech crops worldwide – especially glyphosate tolerant crops.

In addition, global need for agrichemicals is increasing just as the petroleum intermediates necessary to make them are in very strong demand by other industrial processes, many of which are perceived as higher value or priority.

Production of glyphosate in the U.S. and trusted plants overseas has been at capacity. Unfortunately, just as it now takes more dollars to buy the same barrel of oil, it costs more dollars to buy the same quantity of agrichemicals in a global market. All these factors have lead to price increases and spot shortages of glyphosate, as well as a few other popular chemicals.

Plantings of glyphosate tolerant crops are steadily increasing globally. Demand and cost increases for this popular chemistry are unlikely to decline any time soon. This makes alternative chemistries for those crops and for other genetic packages a sensible choice not just for this year, but likely for several years to come. The extra planning this involves will pay off.

Fortunately, there are still a number of post-patent products available in adequate supply and at a good value. These are reliable, trusted chemistries that provide alternatives for weathering this storm while protecting yields, even in glyphosate-tolerant crops. MANA post-patent products, for example, are field tested, backed by knowledgeable area business managers, produced under strict quality control standards and often include updated and/or expanded crop labeling.

Here are some suggestions that should help whether you’re a farmer, farm manager, crop consultant, or agrichemical retailer.

· Communication between growers and their agrichemical retailers or consultants will be especially important this year. Map out an action plan for anticipated pest control needs and determine what you'll most likely want to have available. Then work with your retailer to make sure they know what you want.

· Lock in orders as early as possible, particularly for glyphosate, but also for atrazine, trifluralin and other chemicals. It is likely there will be shortages for other important chemistry in addition to glyphosate, so get that order in as soon as possible to nail down the best prices and quantities needed.

· Reduce the overall need for glyphosate. Consider alternative biotech or conventional hybrids and varieties, at least on some of your acres or crops. The market prices for major crops are such that other options in genetics and crop protection are more favorable than ever. Saving money on some biotech fees and by using traditional crop protection chemistries could mean a substantial increase in the farm’s bottom line. And at the same time glyphosate-resistant biotypes should be better controlled.

· Save your supply of glyphosate for its most essential need – post-emergence use on tolerant crops. For early burndown needs, use another chemistry, such as paraquat, the active ingredient in MANA Parazone® 3SL herbicide, which is the three-pound formulation preferred by growers.

· Similarly, lessen the need for multiple applications of glyphosate or higher rates by pre-empting weed pressure with a conventional pre-emergence herbicide such as metolachlor, the active ingredient in Parallel™ and Parallel™ Plus, and a very effective strategy for controlling both broadleaf and grass weeds. Using full rates of these products should reduce the need for glyphosate later in the season when it may be more difficult to obtain, or more costly.

· Take a look at Metribuzin as a pre and/or post-emergence option for grasses and broadleaf weeds in corn soybeans and cereals.

· For post-emergence grass control in soybeans, including volunteer glyphosate-resistant corn, consider clethodim, the active ingredient in Arrow™ 2EC.

There is another advantage to conventional pre-emergent herbicide programs. Recent data from university studies indicate that letting many weeds emerge and grow to that 1-2-inch window for post applications can result in more competitive disadvantage for crops than farmers realize. Some estimate the yield penalty at 7 to 14 bu/acre in corn. Even with a weakened dollar, that’s a lot of money in today’s new economic math.

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Dave Downing is senior product marketing manager of Makhteshim-Agan of North America (MANA), based in Raleigh, NC. He has more than nearly 30 years of experience in management of sales, marketing and commercial development for major agrichemical companies.

MANA offers the broadest post-patent portfolio in the crop protection industry with nearly 50 branded insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, plant growth regulators and harvest aids from over 40 active ingredients. MANA is a North American subsidiary of Makhteshim Agan Industries, Ltd. (MAI) Israel, the global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of crop protection products and seventh in global agrochemical companies. For more information, visit www.manainc.com.

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