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Plan around chemical shortages

Leonid Eremeychuk/Getty Images Tractor with sprayer
MAKE A PLAN: Experts say that even with a chemical shortage and increased prices, utilizing good farm management practices can help producers pull through.
With chemicals in short supply for 2022, choose crops accordingly, test soil and follow all labels.

To prepare for the next growing season, producers should have plans for their seed and crop protection needs. With a shortage of many commonly used herbicides, this year more than ever will require planning.

Bridgette Readel, territory manager for Corteva Agriscience, says to prioritize within your crops. “We have tons of reasons as to why we have supply chain problems and why we can’t get weed control products,” she says. “If your soybeans need glyphosate, then in my corn, I’m going to rely on using a preemergence herbicide with some different modes of action.”

Related: Getting insight on the upcoming supply challenges of 2022

Supply chain shortages can be blamed partly on residual effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s power grid, and hurricanes and ice storms shutting down production plants. The industry is “millions of gallons behind in production, so we have to find ways to overcome that,” she says.

“This isn’t something I’m waiting until the growing season to get a hold of either,” Readel says. “This is the year I’m in talking to my sales rep as soon as I can to get anything available secured this fall and into the spring, when product is available for purchase.”

Jack Davis, crop business management field specialist for South Dakota State University Extension, says producers should keep in touch with their suppliers.

“These guys will want to be in close contact with their suppliers, making plans so that they have what they need available for next spring,” he says. “They can save money with planting good varieties for their farm.

“A thing economics-wise is that margins are going to be tighter than what they have been,” Davis says. “If they’re paying for high-price fertilizers, and don’t price their output accordingly, they’re putting themselves in a lot more risk than they have in recent years.”

Price increases for fertilizer

With the high cost of fertilizers, producers may wish to select crops accordingly.

“I think we’re going to see a very fast run on soybean herbicides this year, and fertilizers are expensive right now,” Readel says. “Some people may want to plant more soybeans now to get away from the input costs of corn.”

Davis says that growers should plan for increased inputs this season. “We’re looking at maybe a 30% to 50% increase over last year’s costs for putting in the crop,” he says. “Market prices have come up, but producers are up against that risk if the market begins to turn, so they need to be watching this as a whole.

“Fertilizer right now has already taken the jump, and we’re talking about if some of it is actually available to producers. Guys will want to be using really strong management in their production,” he says. “Soil testing can be a way for producers to see where they can reduce some fertilizer costs, just utilizing good management techniques.”

Read label, apply correctly

In a year of shortages, Readel says this is the time to apply everything according to the label for best results. “We should be spraying at the right time using the right rate,” she says. “No matter the year, we don’t want to cut rates because we really lost the battle against kochia and waterhemp in ’21.”

“Let’s start watching fields as soon as our soil temperatures are above 50 degrees [F] or when we see weeds germinating. Pay attention to what’s growing. Wherever there was a bad patch of kochia last year, there will be one in the same spot again this year,” Readel says.

Many in the Dakotas are expecting challenges with kochia, marestail, waterhemp and, potentially, Palmar amaranth for the coming season, which Readel says can be controlled with planning.

“We have to pay close attention to what is happening in our fields. Coming off of last year, we could plan for it to be dry, but we don’t know that for sure yet,” Readel says. “We still have to look for diseases like the white mold we saw in soybeans last year, and pay attention to pests that won’t go away.”

Producers can help themselves this year by assessing the risk, using proper management techniques, and staying in contact with their agronomists and suppliers.

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