There's nothing quite like visiting a true research lab. I've made a few visits in my career to a number of crop protection labs and research centers for most of the major brands out there. It's interesting to see fledgling products being tested in the greenhouse, to talk about hot topics researchers are reviewing.
And this time, the key word - resistance.
I was visiting the Vero Beach Research Center for Syngenta. Yes it's in Vero Beach, Fla., a great place to be in January and it wasn't my first trip to the facility. You'll find all kinds of different crops being researched there from corn and soybeans to sugar cane and romaine lettuce. From fungicide testing to crop protection product tests, you'll find it here.
Side fact, VBRC was started with 40 acres in a $140,000 purchase several decades ago, today those same 40 acres couldn't be bought for 100 times that amount. Times change.
On this visit to the research facility, traveling with an alumni group of Syngenta's Resistance Fighter of the Year winners we talked about resistance, and we went well beyond glyphosate worries. During the visit we checked out early warning issues in insecticides and fungicides too.
Syngenta was an early warning bell on the resistance front - from a corporate site - several years ago. They saw early signs of resistance to glyphosate from Australia and knew it could happen here. I've lost track of the number of conversations I've had with Chuck Foresman on the issue, he was the guide on that quest to share the warning of weed resistance from Syngenta. He has a different role now, but in those days he met with a lot of media on the issue.
Today it's accepted, use a preemerge herbicide to get a clean start, and watch the modes of action you're using through the year. Guess what? Those same tactics will keep great fungicides working and solid insecticides from failing too.
For example, we were standing in a plot of romaine lettuce being told that the mildew-fighting fungicide being tested would be added as a single application in a year for a grower - not as a replacement for all fungicide sprays. The goal: Add another mode of action to the mix to break up the resistance chain.
Same goes for cotton thrips and work being done to determine how insecticides are working and what can be done to prevent resistance there too.
The Resistance Fighters of the Year who were on hand were blunt about the work they're doing and how they're helping farmers kill weeds and keep tough-to-control weeds down. Kochia in Nebraska is especially bad, but Clint Einsparh, Arapahoe, Neb., helps farmers keep ahead of it (he's pictured below) by using preemergence products along with a varied array of post crop protection products.
And this isn't a Syngenta-only strategy. Those RFOY winners as we call them work with products from Bayer, BASF, FMC and others to mix it up in the field. There are great products from every company and you should be considering all that hot crop tech to get the job done.
All eyes are on Roundup Ready 2 Xtend and Enlist technologies. These offer great promise with new modes of action (using legacy technology that's been updated for these biotech tools) for weed control. But these RFOY winners, who are mostly dealers and cooperative agronomists are a little worried about that tech too.
The consensus is that it's great stuff, but farmers will have to manage it and label those fields carefully. Knowing exactly what you planted where will help avoid a significant issue - spraying the wrong auxin on those crops. And your custom applicator has to know. Sounds like common sense, but we all know stuff gets missed and if you plant Enlist soybeans in one field and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in another field, you'll want to know which was which. Or rather, your applicator better know.
Beating resistance takes work, and strategy. Adding more tools to the mix will challenge growers in the future, but offer hope of clean crops and better yields.