THE CLOCK STARTS ticking when Asian soybean rust breaks out in your field. Some officials have even gone so far as to say the sprayer had better be sitting “at the ready.” However, some sprayer manufacturers are concerned there may not be enough sprayers available to beat the clock if an outbreak occurs. And federal crop insurance only covers yield loss if growers have made a serious attempt to treat the disease (see page 23).
The USDA warns that, once rust is discovered, growers have a seven-day window to apply an effective fungicide rescue treatment. Otherwise, plants can be completely stripped of foliage within a week. If left untreated, soybean rust causes yield losses ranging from 10 to 80%.
Will enough sprayers be available to handle a severe outbreak? The answer depends on the severity of the outbreak and how fast soybean rust spreads. Some growers say they aren't sure there are enough custom applicators to handle the job if a rapidly moving outbreak occurs in a particular area. Several of the major sprayer manufacturers in the Midwest are reporting a dramatic increase in sprayer orders. They are adding extra manufacturing shifts to beef up production. Some manufacturers have expressed fear that they may not be able to keep up with demand.
The used sprayer market is also reported to be hot. However, application guidelines for most fungicides require that about 20 gal. of material be applied per acre at 60 to 80 psi, meaning pump size is a factor. Effective treatment also requires special spray nozzles that allow the entire plant to be soaked, including the undersides of leaves where fungus spores are hiding. As Pat Harms, sales consultant, Demco-Dethmers Manufacturing, explains, “Those requirements mean that not every old sprayer pulled out of the grove is going to be equipped to treat soybean rust.”
Manufacturers report soybean rust concerns are driving an interest in boom sizes ranging from 60 to 90 ft. and average tank sizes of around 1,000-gal. capacity. Growers want to be able to cover as much of the field as possible in the least amount of time.
Although they are reluctant to contribute to a sense of panic, the consensus among manufacturers seems to be that producers located in areas where rust has been discovered should consider getting sprayer orders in as early as possible. At the end of the 2004 growing season, soybean rust had been discovered in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina. Manufacturers say soybean growers in states bordering those original nine are also getting worried.
Here is what several sprayer manufacturers have to say about the availability of their products.
Great Plains Manufacturing
Tom Evans says the company is getting a lot of farmer inquiries about sprayers. “Asian rust has really got people thinking hard about how they should be preparing,” he says. “I don't think there is any question about it; there are not going to be enough commercial sprayers to get treatment done in a timely manner because timing is so critical when it comes to treating soybean rust.
“Soybean rust is going to bring a big change in the rules of how we spray after the Roundup years,” Evans notes. “Roundup is a contact herbicide; you get a drop on a leaf and that is good enough. We have to change our application techniques with fungicides for Asian soybean rust, because it is important to coat the leaf and coverage is critical. This will require slower application.
“I think nozzle choice and boom suspension are going to be very critical to farmers treating for soybean rust,” he continues. “The fungicides have to get on all the leaves and they have to wet the whole bean plant. Consequently, many of the fungicide labels are recommending spraying 20 gal. of material per acre at 60 to 80 psi.”
Case IH Application Equipment
Sprayer production has increased over the last year, reports Ken Lehman, marketing manager. “I think the increased demand is impacting the whole business, from pull-type to self-propelled sprayers, both the new and used market. There are some growers who may be looking for an entry-level, used machine. Used inventories of self-propelled sprayers are in tight supply right now.”
Lehman says that, because Asian rust was detected in the South first, southern markets are more active right now.
Sprayer sales are picking up in some parts of the southern Corn Belt, according to Tony Fath of Redball. He sees a real possibility that there won't be enough sprayers on the market, especially if producers all wait until the last minute. “With steel prices and petroleum-based-product prices, I just don't think manufacturers are going to stockpile a lot of equipment,” he says. “In the trailer market, you have plastic tanks and rubber hoses and rubber tires. The prices of those items have taken off on a wild chase, just like steel has in the last 18 months. I haven't heard any indicators that prices of either are going to level off or slow down. If manufacturers are going to go with traditional projections for sales for the year and people wait until the last minute to react, it may be too late.”
As a result of an increase in the number of farmers calling about sprayers, Hiniker Company has beefed up sprayer production, according to Wayne Buck. “Since soybean rust spraying is typically done at a later date than a lot of other things, in late May to late June, the additional time might mean more sprayers could be manufactured before a crisis occurs,” he adds.
Timely application, bigger booms for fewer wheel tracks and larger acre coverage are the three top sprayer requests related to soybean rust. “It seems a lot of people are looking at larger sprayers and larger booms because they realize they are going to be driving around in a more mature crop with more potential for doing damage,” Buck says. “This means customers are looking for fewer wheel tracks with a wider boom. The rust application requires a higher water carrier rate and a lower ground speed.”
Pat Harms says the company has been selling a number of 1,100-gal. trailer sprayers, in addition to fielding many questions about existing sprayers. “Lots of people are asking about their older sprayers,” she notes. “When it comes to treating rust, producers need a pump that can put down around 80 lbs. of pressure and 20 gal. of fungicide per acre, according to most of the chemical company recommendations. We are recommending hydraulic pumps because we know they have that kind of pressure. It is important that the soybean plant is thoroughly saturated, especially underneath the leaf.”
Jim Bates reports that the company has seen a marked increase in the number of Apaches sold because of the potential rust problem. “Farmers know if they own their own sprayer and if they scout their fields properly, they can catch the rust and make the pertinent chemical applications in a timely fashion to ward off any loss in yields,” he says.
He reports sales are up 50 to 100% for some dealers in the Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky areas. The used sprayer market also is very strong. But soybean rust isn't the only reason for the increased sprayer sales. Bates thinks better commodity prices and yields last year added to demand.
Mark Aslesen says producers are concerned that custom applicators will be scrambling during a rust outbreak because everyone wants fields treated at the same time. “I don't think there will be enough sprayers to meet the demand,” he says. “Our customers are starting to go with larger tanks because of the higher treatment rates to spray for soybean rust. Customers are wanting more tank capacity than they did in the past, such as 1,250- to 1,600-gal. tanks. We have also seen a surge in demand for the 120-ft. boom.”
Pat Meenen, Bestway sales manager, says there has been a big demand for larger tanks and larger booms. RHS is running extra manufacturing shifts to meet the demand.
He suggests producers seek information about the type of sprayer tips to use and the application that will be needed. “Fungicides are not something we are used to applying in the Midwest,” Meenen says. “We are primarily used to spraying insecticides and some herbicides. This is going to be fairly new to everybody. To treat effectively you need to get the fungicide through the canopy of foliage, under the leaves and delivered all the way to the bottom of the plant. Positioning the boom and nozzle tips is the key, and it is going to be critical to treat soybean rust right.”
Ag-Chem Equipment, AGCO
Arnie Sinclair, general marketing manager, says interest is increasing more than demand from his customers in the colder areas of the soybean belt. “Some people are taking a wait-and-see attitude because there are still a lot of unanswered questions about soybean rust,” he says. “Sprayer demand was strong last year and equipment manufacturers are coming off of a really good year. AGCO has increased production every month since last June, and sprayer production doubled between November and December 2004.
“Producers are going to have to treat fields and treat quickly,” Sinclair continues. “This will probably require extended hours. Proper lighting on the equipment with a lightbar to help navigate in the dark is going to be beneficial to the operators and will help expedite treatment.”
Unverferth Manufacturing Company
Jerry Ecklund, advertising manager, says Unverferth has seen an increase in demand for its Top Air trailer sprayers for the last two years. “The crop prices as well as the crop yields this last year have helped all equipment manufacturers, but we are seeing more interest because of soybean rust,” he says. “Some of the farmers are using soybean rust as additional reasoning behind investing in a sprayer.”