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What is hidden in the 'seamless' price of cotton seed?

Brad Haire ga-cotton-planting-seed-hopper-5-a.jpg
Beginning in 2017 or 2018, the quoted and paid price for a bag of cotton seed was all-inclusive, one price for both seed and technology altogether.

Prior to 2017-18, the price for a bag of cotton seed included two charges, one for seed and the other for the associated technology. Payment for the seed portion was due in early summer, while the tech fee was paid in the fall.

Of course, tech fees covered the costs of Bt traits for worm control and herbicide-resistant technologies linked to glyphosate (Roundup and similar generics) and glufosinate (Liberty and similar generics) and later, the auxins, dicamba (in Xtend varieties) and 2,4-D (in Enlist varieties).

Beginning in 2017 or 2018, the quoted and paid price for a bag was all-inclusive, one price for both seed and technology altogether, referred to in the industry as “seamless pricing.”

Yes, this simplified things but also masked things as well. Some things are hidden.

In recent years, I’ve had discussions with economists and other colleagues who were seeking to assign a price for various traits, including Bollgard III, Widestrike 3, and TwinLink Plus, and the herbicide-tolerance options. That cannot be done because the price is now all in one.

In 2017 and the few years prior, the tech fee for Roundup Ready Flex cotton was in the neighborhood of $250 for a 230,000-count seed bag. In its early days, (Was the RR tech fee below $100/bag in its first years?) glyphosate in Roundup Ready and later Roundup Ready Flex cotton afforded exceptional weed control. Roundup (and generics) was almost a “silver bullet,” providing broad spectrum control on essentially every key weed pest. Glyphosate was good - really good, but ultimately resistance occurred.

I remember the first field I walked in which pigweed (Palmer amaranth) escaped multiple glyphosate applications. I visited the site and treated some plants with a pump-up sprayer and returned in a week to see the non-results, then collected a plant and took it home in a bucket for further study in my garden. That was the front edge of a battle that has been waged since the early 2000s and has cost growers millions of dollars.

What is hidden by a single, “seamless” price for a bag of seed is the fact that the built-in cost of the Roundup Ready Flex (RF) technology – even though it is not stated but incorporated into the entire price of seed and technology -- has not changed, at least in any recognizable way.

Glyphosate technologies have lost considerable value, but the price of a bag has not declined in comparable fashion.  While still effective on some weeds, the herbicide does not deliver what it formerly provided. We’re almost back to where we once were, albeit we have not rescued post-directed units out of the weed, sand too many growers have abandoned layby applications.

We’ve had to add multiple PRE treatment mixtures at planting and then “layer in” additional residual materials at 2 to 3 week intervals. Residual and other POST herbicides in addition to glyphosate inflate our weed control budgets. On top of that, the built-in but hidden, unchanged RF portion of the seed bag expands cost even further.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen no downward adjustment in bag costs despite the large loss in value for RF technology and the extra expenses of needed multiple additional PRE and POST herbicides.

Source: Auburn University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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