The crop protection and seed development industry landscape has undergone significant change since the 2018 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, primarily with mergers of key ag companies and subsequent acquisitions and movement of key products and personnel from one entity to another.
Representatives of five key companies took the opportunity during the Crop Consultant’s Conference, the opening segment of the 2019 Beltwide Cotton Conferences sponsored by the National Cotton Council, in New Orleans, La., to explain how the change affects their operations and what those changes will mean to their customers.
Emerging technology coming out of those mergers, they say, will offer cotton farmers new seed and crop protection products.
“We’ve had a marriage of two great companies,” said Ty Fowler, Bayer Crop Sciences, referencing the acquisition of Monsanto, finalized in the last year. He said the new company brings together “the best of both operations. And my portfolio got extremely wider with the acquisition.
“We maintain the same commitment to cotton as always.” He says Bayer has been “been delivering great germplasm and great technology for years. Now, we’re able to marry that with the personnel and chemistry” that comes with the merger and the legacy side of Bayer.
It’s good for the industry, Fowler adds. The merger will provide “more solutions and more options on more acres across your whole portfolio, from planting all the way through defoliation and harvest.”
Dr. Tom Eubank, Phytogen cotton development specialist, explained changes in the company following the merger of DuPont and Dow. “One thing that’s kind of set us apart moving forward is that we are 100 percent a cotton company now,” he says. “So, with the mergers of DuPont and Dow, Phytogen is going to be a standalone cotton company.”
The merger brings a lot of talent and experience together under one umbrella, with some 250 years of cotton experience. “So, we definitely got a wealth of knowledge.”
The product portfolio also expands. “The Enlist technology now sets us apart from a lot of the competition and gives us another option for farmers to use on their fields.” He adds that recent approval for Enlist in China “was good news for us.”
Eubank says breeding trait efforts continue. “Our breeders are doing an outstanding job selecting native traits like bacterial blight, resistance, root rot, and nematode resistance. We will be launching reniform resistant varieties soon. We see a lot of excitement within our company.”
“The thing that excites, me being from a crop protection background,” says Matthew Riggins, tech service manager, FMC, “is that our R and D spending is going to be targeted solely on developing new chemistries and modes of action.”
He says FMC is in a unique position “None of our subsidiaries are involved in the trait business. Our favorite trait is your favorite trait. We want to help you make decisions for your growers on the farm, using our crop protection products.” Innovation, he says, drives product development.
The acquisition, he adds brought in a wealth of material. “Part of that acquisition was 1.8 million different synthetic compounds that sit in a library up in New Jersey and Delaware.”
He says FMC is currently looking at 15 new synthetic active ingredients in the pipeline. He also notes that transition has been smooth without “a lot of headaches and confusion we think about when we go through a merger. Since that merger, we’ve added three more new synthetics. We’re now at 18, so that tells me that we have an engine that kept chugging.”
He says bollworm trait resistance will be an issue. Pressure in some Mid-South and Texas fields has required insecticide spray.
“We’ll be moving forward with Prevathon for bollworm applications.” He says, regardless of the trait package, producers will get better control using an egg threshold target to control small worms instead of allowing them to get larger and harder to kill.
Keith Griggs, Syngenta tech rep in Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel, waxed a bit nostalgic. “I got to thinking that this is the 34th Beltwide I’ve been to, which means I am really, really old. I see some other people I know who must have been coming as long as I have and who also witnessed a lot of changes, some good, some not so good.”
Including the Crop Consultants’ Conference as part of the proceedings, he says, was a good decision.
“I’m not going to go through any product updates right now, but just to let you know in 2019 we’re looking at two new products. One is Miravis Top, which will change the game when it comes to disease control, primarily target spot. We should have our label for that product in June. We’ll let’s see how quickly it gets here.
“And for those of you who check Xtend cotton, we will have a new product for pre- and post- application for weed control.”
He says a new class of chemistry for plant bugs and other insects is expected “further down the road. It is going to be very exciting when it gets here.”
Steven Nichols, BASF lead for global economic services for cotton, says he’s witnessed changes since the last Beltwide. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. As you know, on Aug. 1, Bayer completed some acquisitions to BASF. So, when I showed up last year, I had a different name tag than this one and it was not BASF.
“Along with the cotton business, we also had assets with the seed treatment business come over, as well as other parts of the product businesses, like our R and D, and a trait development team, and a breeding team. So, all those assets came along, and all the individuals who work in those departments came as well. What we have now is a bigger portfolio to support cotton.”
Hank Jones, RHJ Ag Services in Winnsboro, La., who was master of ceremonies, paid homage to the wealth of knowledge and experience gathered at the annual consultants’ conference. “One of the luxuries we have at this meeting is that in this gathering room we have some of the best scientists in the world when it comes to studying cotton.”