Keep your fields clean and your options open.
If you're looking for effective, economical and easy weed control that won't limit your marketing flexibility or leave you with a crop you can't sell, you won't find any perfect solutions this year. You will, however, find a few refinements that might just spread your risk and provide the extra oomph you're looking for in your weed-control program. In addition to helping you manage grain marketability, some of this year's new tools can provide enough variation to keep resistant weeds on the run.
GMO resistance? United Ag Products Marketing Manager David Schramm says he's seen the farmer's cost of weed control per acre go down significantly because of Roundup Ready (RR) and other herbicide-resistant crop technology. And he notes that although almost everyone is casting a cautious eye toward uncertain markets for genetically modified (GM) grain, it seems that most farmers who've used herbicide-resistant corn aren't about to entirely give up on the convenience and cost savings. Herbicide companies have obliged on RR crops in particular, with more than half a dozen suppliers now offering their own glyphosate products. "It's a matter of weighing benefits against risks," Schramm says. "And I think farmers are going to view all of their choices very carefully. It's always a good idea to understand all the issues that surround particular weed-control choices."
Interview a dozen farmers about what they're going to plant four months from now, and 10 will likely say they're going to "wait and see." Most are at least thinking about hedging their bets in the grain markets, possibly leaning toward a balance between herbicide-resistant crops and conventional weed-control strategies. Although this may add to their cost of weed control per acre, it could provide some peace of mind. Plus, an unintended benefit of this diverse approach to weed control could be that it helps preserve the usefulness of existing technologies in a program to manage resistant weeds.
Resistant weeds? Even though many university weed scientists are sounding the alarm that repetitive cropping and weed-control practices will likely result in more resistant weeds, most farmers don't seem very concerned. In a recent Iowa State University study, less than half of the 1,000 growers surveyed rated rotation as very important in controlling weeds in corn. And although 81% ranked individual herbicide effectiveness as very important, 59% said concerns about herbicide resistance in weeds did not influence their herbicide selection.
The view from the front lines isn't much different. Schramm says most customers are not very concerned about herbicide-resistant weeds. "We expect resistant weeds to be a problem down the road, so we're working with customers to do a better job of thinking ahead on rotations. But until resistant weeds show themselves, very few growers seem willing to spend more dollars per acre on a resistance management program."
Meanwhile, leaning toward the "ounce of prevention" strategy, weed scientists such as University of Wisconsin-Madison Agronomy Professor Gordon Harvey believe resistance management should be a formal part of every weed-control system. Harvey says that any overused herbicide program, even Roundup, is ultimately vulnerable to species shifts and potentially resistant weeds. "I would not use Roundup Ready more than twice in four years," Harvey says. "We already have documented species shifts in RR systems, the biggest problems being yellow nutsedge and velevetleaf. Rotating between RR row corn and RR soybeans doesn't help. But following RR drilled soybeans with conventional row corn would help. Winter wheat and alfalfa rotations also help prevent species shifts."
So, will dominance of GM products decline because of market concerns? Will resistant weeds become more or less of a problem? It's hard to say. But one thing is clear: Farmers are still placing most of their faith in chemical companies to provide products that will solve their current and evolving weed problems. Let's hope this year's new corn herbicides are up to the challenge.
The new crop. With all the mergers, alliances and spin-offs within the chemical industry this year, it's hard to know exactly what every new herbicide will be for the coming season. Some of the new offerings from several companies are described below. Be sure to check with your chemical supplier for the latest updates.
Sidebar:Team fin herbicide buys
Finding a balance between service and price
Bob Zarse, Reynolds, IN
A competitive price on herbicides is nice, but we don't necessarily look for the cheapest cost per acre. Service is much more important. We do our own spraying, but we have a "don't touch" policy on herbicides. That means we don't do any of the mixing ourselves. It all gets premixed at the local fertilizer plant in an agitated, 1,600-gal. stainless steel tank mounted in our truck. We rely on the plant manager to make recommendations on the specific tankmix to use for each particular situation.
Though we've noticed some yield drag on Roundup Ready soybeans in the past, we'll be going with 100% RR soybeans for 2001. We believe it's worth sacrificing some yield to get the superior weed control. But none of our corn will be genetically modified because our local elevator has a "no GM corn" policy.
Steve Webb, Needham, IN
Pricing is important to me and I do shop price. But it is not as important to me as performance. Believe me, there is a lot of difference in the way dealers react when you call to tell them you have an escape and in what they will do to help correct the situation.
I sometimes wonder if farmers don't take their buying habits a little too far. I have friends who will not buy any of their chemical inputs close to home because they can get a better deal 70 or 80 miles from home. When I take a pencil to their "deal," I see savings of less than a dollar per acre and a lot of extra work and risk. I simply don't think it is worth it. If I'm going to be the least-cost producer on the block, I cannot afford poor weed control. My experience says that the highest-cost control is the one that works the poorest, regardless of price.
Brad McIntosh, Hannah, ND
Service or low price - it's tough to find both in one place. So I go with two different dealers depending on my needs. Sometimes I don't need much service, like when I'm buying a herbicide I've used before and know what to expect. In those cases, I go to the local seed plant that also sells chemicals for a few cents over cost. But if I'm trying a new product, I definitely want service support. And I'm willing to pay a bit more to get that support.
I've thought about buying chemicals on the Internet, maybe one of those sites that sells excess supply at a low price out of season. But if I buy out of season, I'll need a heated warehouse to store it. Plus, we're not always sure what we'll want to use several months down the road; markets, weather, lots of things can change. Who knows? A better, cheaper product might come out after I've stocked up. I don't want to get stuck holding obsolete chemicals.
Second Sidebar:New solutions for crop protection
New Balance Pro is a new liquid formulation that replaces Balance WDG and eliminates the need for a preslurry. Aventis says that better dispersion with the new product and instructions that remind applicators to pay attention to rates and soil types should help reduce the crop injury problems sometimes seen with the old formula. Balance Pro can be used as a one-pass program in combination with other preemergent herbicides or in tankmix with a low rate of atrazine. Glufosinate-resistant LibertyLink corn allows a two-pass program with Balance Pro followed by Liberty herbicide.
Aventis has teamed up with Bayer to co-introduce new preplant corn herbicide Define. The active ingredient, flufenacet, is already used in Bayer products such as Epic and Axiom. Define controls most grasses and some key small-seeded broadleaf weeds. It can be mixed with Balance Pro or followed by Liberty herbicide. This dry flowable product comes packaged in two 25-lb. containers per case in an Accu-Bin bulk delivery system. Each 25-lb. container treats between 20 and 40 acres in any tillage system.
Products previously sold under the Wilfarm, Class and Riverside names will now be sold under the AgriSolutions brand, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, seed and grain protectants. Agriliance says it will introduce several new products in the coming season.
BASF's newest herbicide since its merger with American Cyanamid, Outlook, will be available in limited quantities for 2001. This chloracetamide controls or suppresses many key grasses with extra-strong control of small-seeded broadleaves. It can be applied preplant surface, preplant incorporated, preemergence and post-emergence on corn up to 36 in. tall. BASF says Outlook is designed to provide season-long control with consistent performance in wet or dry conditions. Application rates range from 10 to 21 oz./acre.
Dow purchased Zeneca's acetochlor product line as part of Zeneca's merger with Novartis. That means Dow now provides grass control products such as Surpass, TopNotch and FulTime. Dow is recommending that these products be tank mixed with Hornet WDG to provide a one-pass soil-applied grass and broadleaf program in corn.
Dow is offering a more "farmer-friendly" reformulation of the broadleaf herbicide Hornet. Rates with the new formulation are now 3 oz./acre for post-applied treatments and 4 oz./acre for soil-applied applications. This change delivers the same amount of active ingredient per acre as the original formulation and improves the human handling classification on the MSDS sheet from "danger" to "warning." Hornet WDG is available in both water-soluble packets or 6-lb. jugs.
Dupont's new sulfonylurea product, Steadfast, provides postemergence residual control of many tough grasses as well as suppression of many broadleaf weeds. This combination of nicosulfuron and rimsulfuron can be tank mixed with many broadleaf herbicides for broad-spectrum control. For best results, Dupont recommends application 3 to 5 weeks following planting when the first flush of weeds is 1 to 3 in. tall. Steadfast may be applied to corn up to 12 in. tall at a rate of 3/4 oz./acre with a crop oil concentrate plus ammonium nitrogen fertilizer adjuvant system. Residual activity is enhanced by rainfall 5 to 7 days after application.
Dupont's popular Basis herbicide is now labeled for fall application. Used after harvest but prior to ground freeze, it controls tough winter annual weeds such as dandelion, henbit and chickweed. Winter annual control in the fall can reduce planting delays and reduce egg-laying sites for stinkbug and cutworm moth. Recommended rate is 1/3 to 1/2 oz./acre with 1 gal. of crop oil concentrate/100 gal. of spray solution plus 2 qt. of 28% N or 2 lbs. of spray grade ammonium sulfate/acre.
Glufosinate-based Roundup UltraMax is a concentrated formulation that allows treatment of more acres with fewer refill stops. With a 26-oz. use rate, a 30-gal. drum treats 30 more acres than Roundup Ultra. The product continues to use TranSorb technology to enhance plant uptake and rainfastness.
Degree, Degree Xtra.
Monsanto now has a label for post application of both Degree and Degree Xtra. The company introduced Degree as a preplant corn herbicide last year. The soil temperature-activated formulation of acetochlor (Harness) premixed with atrazine for corn features encapsulation technology that releases acetochlor as soil temperature rises above 50F. Below that temperature, no acetochlor is released. Because the atrazine in the mix is not encapsulated, it provides contact and residual weed control immediately after application. The capsule releases the safener in Degree Xtra faster than the herbicide and thus reaches the corn seedling first, resulting in less stress on the seedling.
Sipcam Agro USA
Last year, BASF completed a marketing agreement with Sipcam Agro USA for its improved formulation of Laddok. Now Sipcam will offer this longtime standard for herbicide crop safety in field corn, seed corn, sweet corn and popcorn. With equal parts Basagran and atrazine, Laddok S-12 should be applied early postemergence for control of a broad spectrum of broadleaf weeds.
The 4L and 90DF formulations of simazine are now labeled for fall application for control of winter annuals. This gives Dupont's Basis, which received a similar label this year, some friendly competition.
Crop protection products that once sold under the Novartis and Zeneca brands will now come from the new company Syngenta, except for a portfolio of acetochlor products that was sold to Dow and a fungicide sold to Bayer in order to complete the Syngenta merger. Two Syngenta corn herbicides are new for 2001.
Syngenta expects that its new all-in-one herbicide, Expert, will be registered in time for use on the 2001 corn and milo crop. The one-pass product contains S-metolachlor, atrazine and glyphosate for rapid burn down and season-long grass control. It also contains benoxacor for enhanced crop safety in corn. Expert is targeted for use in no-till and reduced tillage systems as well as herbicide-tolerant corn.
In the gridiron battle of the glyphosate herbicides, one point of differentiation may be each product's crop friendliness. Syngenta says its newest formulation of Touchdown wins high marks in that realm with a unique corn-based balanced adjuvant delivery system branded "IQ Technology." This formulation is designed to deliver the glyphosate ion to weeds more efficiently while also being more gentle to Roundup Ready crops. Syngenta says Touchdown also foams less than other glyphosate formulations and mixes well with a wide range of tankmix partners, including triazines, sulonylureas, phenoxys, acetamides and diphenyl ether herbicides and insecticides. Cost per acre should be comparable to that for Roundup UltraMax. Recommended rate will be 1 qt./acre, with a range of 8 to 48 oz./acre, depending on weed species, height and density.
Mesotrione, the active ingredient in Syngenta's new broadleaf herbicide Callisto, was discovered following the observation that weeds are less likely to grow around the Australian bottlebrush plant Callistemon. Further investigation of the plant's natural defense against broadleaves led to the development of the new weed-control chemistry. Because it uses a unique mode of action, Callisto is expected to be useful in controlling triazine and ALS-resistant broadleaf weeds while providing excellent crop safety. Syngenta expects to receive registration for Callisto as a postemergence broadleaf weed control for corn in 2001. Registration for a mixture with acetochlor on corn is expected in 2002.