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Buyer's market

“Price elasticity” is a fancy term manufacturers use to describe the practice of pricing products at the highest level customers will pay before they either stop buying or start rioting in the streets. For soybean herbicides, the elastic reached its limit a few years ago as farmers howled that the price of weed control had them taking it in the shorts to the tune of $30/acre or more.

Then the elastic snapped. Herbicide-resistant soybean varieties allowed growers to use relatively cheap and effective products ranging from sethoxydim (STS) to Roundup Ready (RR). Last year, herbicide-resistant soybeans saved U.S. farmers about $220 million a year in weed-control costs, according to a study conducted by The National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. That figure, which includes an average $6/acre technology fee charged by the makers of biotech seeds, will likely be dwarfed in the coming season. As genetically modified soybeans are increasingly accepted in world markets, many soybean growers say they are going to plant 50 to 100% of their soybean acres to herbicide-resistant varieties. Thanks to that trend, soybean herbicides are at bargain-basement prices.

Meanwhile, chemical company herbicide research and development budgets are getting tighter. And that means fewer new herbicides. The rationale? Why invest six to 10 years and $40 to $100 million to label a new soybean herbicide that might not outperform Roundup or some other cheap glyphosate product? Better perhaps to find new uses, like fall application, for old products. And if the competing chemical companies can't beat a Roundup Ready program, maybe they can come up with a special pricing program to get one of their existing residual products “in the tank” with glyphosate.

So, if you're wondering why soybean weed-control prices are down, you can thank glyphosate. And if you are wondering why there aren't many new products with new modes of action, blame glyphosate. Just keep your eyes open for package deals. And take a look at innovative weed-control strategies that might be possible with new labeled uses of old products. You might find better weed control and even more savings.

Here's what's new in soybean weed control.

BASF. Add residual weed control to your RR soybean program and earn fabulous prizes. The old American Cyanamid Harvest Partners preferred customer program is gearing up under the new BASF regime. The company intends to lure RR soybean growers with 300 Harvest Points per acre when they use Prowl followed by Extreme herbicide.

Dupont. In the “finding new uses” category, Dupont now has labels for fall application of Canopy XL and Express for soybeans. Canopy XL at 3.6 to 7.9 oz. or Express at 0.1 to 0.2 oz. provides fall burn down that can reduce early-season pests such as cutworm and help you get an earlier start in the spring. Research shows that early planting can significantly increase soybean yields.

FMC. If you like to see weeds turn a whiter shade of pale before they die, you'll be happy to know that Command Xtra received registration in late spring last year. The combination of Command 3ME and sulfentrazone can be applied preplant or preemergence for dual-action control of many tough grasses and broadleaves.

Gauntlet is a new product that combines sulfentrazone (active ingredient: Authority) and cloransulam-methyl (active ingredient: First Rate). It can be tank mixed with many preemergence grass herbicides for a total control program.

Aim is now labeled for soybeans. The postemergence herbicide is a new chemistry called carfentrazone-ethyl, making it effective against ALS- and triazine-resistant weeds. The broadleaf herbicide can be tank mixed with a variety of other herbicides.

Syngenta. Boundary is a new combination of S-metolachlor and metribuzin that provides short-term residual control of 32 broadleaf weeds and 13 grasses. Syngenta is positioning it as a residual addition to RR programs and a resistance management tool for glyphosate and ALS inhibitors. It can be tank mixed with burn-down herbicides, applied preplant or preemergence in tankmixes. Boundary is available in bulk and 2 1/2-gal containers.

There's no official discount program yet, but we have a hunch that it may be worthwhile to ask your chemical dealer about a special program that pairs Boundary with Syngenta's Touchdown glyphosate herbicide. The company recommends using Boundary at a 1 1/4-pint/acre rate followed by Touchdown on RR soybeans.

Syngenta says the newest version of Touchdown achieves improved RR crop safety with a unique balanced adjuvant system branded “IQ Technology.” This formulation is designed to deliver the glyphosate ion to weeds more efficiently while also being more gentle to RR crops. Syngenta says Touchdown also foams less than other glyphosate formulations and mixes well with a wide range of tankmix partners, including triazines, sulfonylureas, phenoxys, acetamides and diphyl 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 suggested, depending on weed species, height and density.

Valent. Preemerge-applied Valor uses flumioxazin, a new photosynthesis inhibitor that controls broadleaf weeds with quick burn down plus residual and no carryover to rotated crops. The company is positioning Valor as a solution to tough broadleaf weeds and as a management tool to prevent resistant weed populations. Valor may not be available until the end of this year.

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