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Corn+Soybean Digest

"Prices, Policy And The WTO" is Agricultrual Forum Topic March 1

"Prices, Policy, and the WTO," the Agricultural Forum 2002 at Iowa State University, will focus on the effort to align U.S. farm policy with commitments to world trade.

The March 1 forum, sponsored by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), also will explore the effect both domestic and international policies have on commodity prices and the profitability of U.S. agriculture.

Designing appropriate and effective policy for the U.S. agricultural sector has become more of a balancing act for congressional leaders in 2002. The income safety net is on one side of the issue, while commitments to reduce trade barriers, along with trade-distorting domestic subsidies, is on the other. The Agricultural Forum 2002 will provide a closer examination of these issues and stimulate an informed debate.

Following introductory remarks by CARD director Bruce Babcock, Robert Thompson, director of rural development at The World Bank, will speak on the world agricultural situation. A closer look at the mission of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will follow, with a spotlight on the key issues to be resolved before completion of a new trade agreement in agriculture.

Panelists from Brazil, Canada and Korea will discuss international perspectives of WTO rules and U.S. farm policy. Dan Sumner of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center and Anastassios Haniotis of the European Commission will measure the progress of the United States and European Union in enacting WTO-compliant domestic agricultural policy. A final session will assess the impact of trade negotiations on Midwestern commodities and livestock. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Indiana farmer Jim Moseley also has been invited to talk about the new farm bill at the Forum luncheon.

Registration is $75 if postmarked by Feb. 20, or $90 after that date and at the door. Students and Iowa State University faculty and staff can register for $25. For the latest program information and a downloadable registration form, visit the Agricultural Forum website, http://www.agforum.org, or call (515) 294-6257.

CARD initiated the Agricultural Forum in 1990 to facilitate an annual, broad-based discussion of issues critical to the vitality of agriculture.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Strategic management important for both small, large farms

Strategic management is just as important for a one-family farm as it is for a larger farm with many employees.

"All farms can benefit from strategic thinking and management," says Kent Olson, farm management economist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. "Much is written about strategic management for businesses, but very little is specifically targeted for farmers." Olson has just completed a 47-page paper, A Strategic Management Primer for Farmers.

He uses a sports metaphor to illustrate: "Good team players read the playing field before deciding what to do during the game," Olson says in his paper. "They know their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their team members. They know where their team members are."

"They see where the ball is relative to the goal. And they see the opportunities and threats and move to the best position to help the team accomplish its goal."

"Former hockey star Wayne Gretzky summed it up very well," says Olson. "Gretzky said, 'I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck will be,' in describing his strategy for hockey."

Within this sports metaphor, Olson says a farmer crafts a strategy by understanding the business environment, seeing where and what is happening, and looking for strengths and weaknesses in both his or her own farm and the competition. Then the farmer moves the farm to the best position to take advantage of opportunities, to protect the farm from threats and to help

accomplish goals and objectives.

Crafting a strategy can help the farmer-manager focus on what is truly important when making decisions (even day-to-day decisions) that will affect the success and survival of the business. Olson says short-term opportunities such as a good deal on machinery or threats ("sign now or lose this chance") may create distractions.

"Short-term decisions may also lead to decisions that don't fit the chosen strategy, and may not contribute to long-run goals. However, short-term opportunities and threats should not be ignored completely," Olson says. "They may be a signal that the business environment has changed so a farm's strategy needs to change."

"Paying attention to short-term events is part of scanning the overall farm business environment," Olson says. You can find his paper at agecon.lib.umn.edu on the Internet. Or, ask a county office of the University of Minnesota Extension Service to

download it for you.

Corn+Soybean Digest

"Prices, Policy And The WTO" is Agricultrual Forum Topic March 1

"Prices, Policy, and the WTO," the Agricultural Forum 2002 at Iowa State University, will focus on the effort to align U.S. farm policy with commitments to world trade.

The March 1 forum, sponsored by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), also will explore the effect both domestic and international policies have on commodity prices and the profitability of U.S. agriculture.

Designing appropriate and effective policy for the U.S. agricultural sector has become more of a balancing act for congressional leaders in 2002. The income safety net is on one side of the issue, while commitments to reduce trade barriers, along with trade-distorting domestic subsidies, is on the other. The Agricultural Forum 2002 will provide a closer examination of these issues and stimulate an informed debate.

Following introductory remarks by CARD director Bruce Babcock, Robert Thompson, director of rural development at The World Bank, will speak on the world agricultural situation. A closer look at the mission of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will follow, with a spotlight on the key issues to be resolved before completion of a new trade agreement in agriculture.

Panelists from Brazil, Canada and Korea will discuss international perspectives of WTO rules and U.S. farm policy. Dan Sumner of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center and Anastassios Haniotis of the European Commission will measure the progress of the United States and European Union in enacting WTO-compliant domestic agricultural policy. A final session will assess the impact of trade negotiations on Midwestern commodities and livestock. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Indiana farmer Jim Moseley also has been invited to talk about the new farm bill at the Forum luncheon.

Registration is $75 if postmarked by Feb. 20, or $90 after that date and at the door. Students and Iowa State University faculty and staff can register for $25. For the latest program information and a downloadable registration form, visit the Agricultural Forum website, agforum.org or call (515) 294-6257.

CARD initiated the Agricultural Forum in 1990 to facilitate an annual, broad-based discussion of issues critical to the vitality of agriculture.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Strategic management important for both small, large farms

Strategic management is just as important for a one-family farm as it is for a larger farm with many employees.

"All farms can benefit from strategic thinking and management," says Kent Olson, farm management economist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. "Much is written about strategic management for businesses, but very little is specifically targeted for farmers." Olson has just completed a 47-page paper, A Strategic Management Primer for Farmers.

He uses a sports metaphor to illustrate: "Good team players read the playing field before deciding what to do during the game," Olson says in his paper. "They know their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their team members. They know where their team members are."

"They see where the ball is relative to the goal. And they see the opportunities and threats and move to the best position to help the team accomplish its goal."

"Former hockey star Wayne Gretzky summed it up very well," says Olson. "Gretzky said, 'I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck will be,' in describing his strategy for hockey."

Within this sports metaphor, Olson says a farmer crafts a strategy by understanding the business environment, seeing where and what is happening, and looking for strengths and weaknesses in both his or her own farm and the competition. Then the farmer moves the farm to the best position to take advantage of opportunities, to protect the farm from threats and to help

accomplish goals and objectives.

Crafting a strategy can help the farmer-manager focus on what is truly important when making decisions (even day-to-day decisions) that will affect the success and survival of the business. Olson says short-term opportunities such as a good deal on machinery or threats ("sign now or lose this chance") may create distractions.

"Short-term decisions may also lead to decisions that don't fit the chosen strategy, and may not contribute to long-run goals. However, short-term opportunities and threats should not be ignored completely," Olson says. "They may be a signal that the business environment has changed so a farm's strategy needs to change."

"Paying attention to short-term events is part of scanning the overall farm business environment," Olson says. You can find his paper at agecon.lib.umn.edu on the Internet. Or, ask a county office of the University of Minnesota Extension Service to download it for you.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Addressing the Farm Bureau Young Farmers’ Convention.

This week, I was in Lynchburg, Va., addressing the Farm Bureau Young Farmers’ Convention. It was interesting to see all the former students, spouses, and children. This is one of the enjoyments of teaching over the years.

One former student indicated that his agrilender was doing more credit scoring in approving agricultural loans. He asked me some of the criteria that they use in the evaluation process. While many will differ slightly, here are some of the most popular.

First, they check your credit history. Lenders examine such items as record of repayment and balances on credit cards. They also analyze credit limits on your credit cards because this can be an unsecured line of credit that can be used at your discretion. Some are requesting spouses’ and even children’s credit history. Some business people have used children’s credit cards to gain access to credit.

The number of times creditors check your credit history is a red flag. Be careful of giving permission to check credit over a short period of time. In some credit scoring systems, this can make up 25 to 30 percent of your score.

Other items include repayment capacity and collateral equity, which I will touch on in later columns.

Interesting Note

Class attendance has been around 90 to 97 percent. I asked students at Virginia Tech, University of Florida, and South Dakota State to estimate the attendance; in class, 60 to 70 percent was the common response. This is now starting to show up in the workplace also.

Down on the Farm

My number 2 son lost a good friend last week. He was 16 years old and ran off the road. He overcorrected and hit a truck. A sixteen year old does understand that death is forever. He just never thinks it will be him. Encourage new drivers in your family to drive with one other person, but not a whole carload. We lose them in too many other ways on the farm as it is.

Sports Note

Old Bobby Knight keeps winning at Texas Tech. If only he had a personality that was consistent!

Next week I will be going up North. Even Barbzilla’s aunt is saying they have record low snowfall this year. My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

This online exclusive is brought to you by Soybean Digest

'Eye in sky' could improve efficiency

Why NASA? Well, it turns out that NASA is interested in working with remote sensing in agriculture so images generated by their satellite technologies have a practical application.

But there are many areas of research that must have some validity before NASA images can apply and transfer to producers. Enter Leonard and Bagwell.

Starting in 1999, Bagwell and Leonard began carrying groups of students out to ground-truth information to detect arthropod pest populations and their association with variations in plant growth patterns picked up by remote images. At that time, the satellite images weren’t even available.

“We were simulating that imagery with fixed wing aircraft being flown at around 12,000 feet above the ground,” says Leonard, who spoke at the recent Precision Agriculture Conference sponsored by the AgCenter in Monroe.

“The last couple of years, after collecting this data, we were asked to participate in a federal funding opportunity. We received approval for this funding.”

As a result, Leonard and colleagues have assembled a multidisciplinary team to evaluate, develop and extend this technology to producers in Louisiana. The project is set up for five years and funded for four years.

Remote sensing is the key tool initially being looked at. Beyond that, the GPS technology comes into play when it comes to making prescription applications to correct any obvious problems occurring in crop fields.

“The LSU AgCenter Research and Extension divisions, along with scientists from the Louisiana computer science department and NASA are very important in running this project. NASA has agreed to provide us with the images we need over the next four years,” says Leonard, research entomologist at the Macon Ridge Branch Station in Winnsboro.

The research component of this is to make sure this technology fits not only one producer in the state, but to have confidence it will work for many producers. The Extension component is to transfer the technology to many different entities – not only for other scientists but to the stakeholders and industry.

Newellton, La., producer Jay Hardwick’s land – located in the northeast part of the state – will be the primary test site. He will allocate resources in terms of labor, equipment and land to work this project.

“Our first objective is to obtain images of various sorts – thermal, multi-spectral or hyper-spectral imagery – and try to associate some type of variation in plant growth patterns within fields. Then, we want to try and make the assumption that if we can see a field is growing well or not then pests can be associated with areas in that field,” says Leonard.

This is a very important assumption. If researchers can’t associate insect problems with the images, then they can’t differentiate where a farmer needs to apply a corrective treatment. But if they can pick up images of estimated plant growth associated with insects, then site-specific management technology will be available to farmers.

“Presently, indications are that we can save anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the crop protection products being used for pest management. That’s a tremendous potential savings in the cotton business, where farmers are spending anywhere from $50 to $200 per acre to manage pests,” says Leonard.

Researchers already know that insects aren’t randomly distributed across fields. They’re found in certain spots.

“We need to find and identify those spots,” says Leonard.

The project’s second objective is to be able to apply treatments properly.

“We’re developing management zones. In some instances, rather than treat a whole zone, we’ll apply variable rates within a zone. We can do this not only by ground but also by air. Tremendous strides are being made in being able to apply pesticides in this manner by air.”

In addition to examining arthropod pest populations, agronomists will be looking at variations in moisture content. Another application to measure in this process, “since we’re already going to be in the fields, is soil moisture levels. If we compare those to remote sensed images during the season and yield maps at the end of the year, we can better time irrigation treatments,” says Leonard.

Finally, agricultural economists will analyze the data for cost/benefits to producers. This will let researchers know of savings, if any, have occurred by using this technology.

The last component of the program, will be taking what is gleaned over the next two to three years and transferring it to producers.

“We want this to be applicable not only to the largest commercial producers, but to all.”

Leonard says the point is not to produce a new industry within the state. Instead, there is an attempt to try and utilize what’s already available.

“This will integrate the technologies currently available into a system producers can use to make better decisions. A producer can acquire images from a private service or, we hope, from the aerial applicator industry. These images may also be available from satellites, although we don’t think so due to some other problems occurring.”

Agriculture consultants will take the images, review them and ground truth certain areas. The producer and consultant will then be able to come up with prescriptions for troubled fields. After developing the prescription, it’ll be applied by the same aviator who might have provided the images. The process is then started again and can be repeated on a daily or weekly basis.

“This has incredible benefit potential. Production agriculture is in tremendous trouble in the United States. We’re not going to compete based on cheap land and labor anymore. We’re going to have to look at new technologies and new management systems,” says Hardwick.

Farmers must look at new research, insists Hardwick.

“This project, in particular, I think will identify a new model we can refer to. The expertise involved in this is top-notch and is exciting. This will be applicable to farmers makes the next 4 or 5 years worth looking forward to.”

The structure of the research project also spreads the risk, says Hardwick.

“There’s no single producer that would be able to embark on this. This shares the risk of money, technology and expertise. It’s a win-win for all. If we’re to make this work, we’ve got band together.”

While Hardwick says there aren’t a lot of answers at the outset of the project the benefit potential is “incredible. Pesticides are a huge part of our inputs. If we can significantly reduce that cost, we’re looking at a positive result. We can’t control the costs of equipment and material. And we can do little about futures prices. But we can do a whole lot with how we apply these materials that are becoming ever more costly.”

What kind of cost per acre are Hardwick and other farmers looking at to incorporate this technology?

“I don’t know. We’re at the beginning stages and it probably wouldn’t even pencil out at this point. That’s why the risk needs to be spread across so many partners. Much of the hardware being used in this project is already well established. It isn’t anything that’s experimental but rather off-the-shelf. We’re embarking on this come spring. You’ll definitely be hearing more from us as the project moves along,” says Hardwick.

Louisiana consultant Harold Lambert, who is involved in some cutting edge precision agriculture work himself, says the project is interesting for several reasons.

“First, their work on variable rate applications from airplanes is marvelous. If they refine that, it would be fantastic. Second, when it comes to using the imagery or some other source of info to direct the consultant to certain areas of fields. We have to have some indication to allow us to take a short cut to get site specific. If we don’t have a meaningful way to make those short cuts, we’d end up having to scout the whole field and geo-reference counts. That isn’t cost effective – you’d have to have a busload of scouts. If they can get this to work, it’ll open many more precision ag avenues.”

Email: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

BELTWIDE: Nematodes exacting heavy toll

More damaging than boll weevils (in some locations).

Able to increase populations rapidly.

Widespread across the cotton belt.

Difficult to control economically.

Nematodes, primarily root knot and reniform, take huge chunks out of cotton farmers’ incomes each year, and the best management technique may still be several years away.

“Nematodes have become significant pests across the cotton belt and take a heavy toll on production,” says Bob McLendon, a Leary, Ga. cotton farmer and former president of the National Cotton Council.

McLendon moderated a panel discussion on nematode management strategies recently at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Atlanta. Panelists from across the belt, representing growers, research and Extension, shared infestation data, loss potential, research needs and management techniques.

“This is an age-old problem,” said James Starr, Texas A&M University. Agricultural scientists “first discovered nematodes in the 1890s. We know they cause significant yield and economic losses and that management will improve profit potential.”

Starr said nematodes come in a wide variety of species and races but root knot is the most widespread. “In Texas, we see a lot of root knot nematodes in the Panhandle. Reniform nematodes are increasing in Louisiana and are severe in Alabama. The Columbia Lance primarily infests South Carolina fields but also shows up in North Carolina and Georgia. Damage from the Lance can be severe.”

Infestations often go undetected, Starr says, because nematodes do their work below ground. “Often, they leave no discrete symptoms but a farmer can lose from 5 percent to 10 percent of his yield and see no warning signs. Fortunately, we’ve awareness of the problem has increased in the last 10 years, but we still need more support for research.”

Critical needs include resistant or tolerant varieties, he said.

John Shackleford, a Bonito, Louisiana farmer, said reniform nematodes have emerged as a major pest problem. “I know way more about reniform nematodes than I wish I knew, but I still don’t know enough.”

He agrees that resistant varieties hold the most promise for adequate management. “But that’s still a ways down the road. With transgenic varieties, however, we may be closer. Unfortunately, little research is being done.”

He hopes a Reniform Nematode Action Committee will help bring the problem to the forefront. “We need to begin identifying some common varieties that have tolerance.”

For the time being, Shackleford depends mostly on rotation to manage the problem. “With high numbers, we have to rotate or treat with pesticides,” he said. “We’ve used Telone, but with cotton so cheap, we can’t afford it.”

He said cotton and peanuts provide an excellent combination. “I also plant corn two years in a row to reduce the numbers. Even with that, I can still find counts as high as 20,000 per sample.”

David Wildy, Manila, Ark. farmer, battles more root knot than reniform nematodes. “I have a lot of sandy soil,” he said. “Boll weevils and boll worms are not as big a threat as they are further south, but nematodes are gaining on us. We’re beginning to pick up numbers above treatment levels. The trend on my farm is alarming.”

He said in 1998, he found 50 nematodes per sample. By 2000, that number had jumped to more than 800 per sample.

Populations, he said, are distributed across the field and range from four per sample to more than 700 (per 100 cc of soil).

“Telone gives us a yield increase of 53 pounds per acre but (at current prices) the expense is not justified. Temik, applied sided dress, provides a 50 pound increase and a slight profit improvement,” Wildy said.

He agrees with Shackleford that variety tolerance holds the key for management. LA 887 may be a possibility, he said.

Moe accurate treatment thresholds, better sampling techniques, improved procedures for handling living organism samples and economical control options top his list of research needs.

Gary W. Lawrence, professor with Mississippi State University, said the reniform nematode “is becoming the most serious pest in the 11 Southeastern states. The pest infests some 1.2 million acres, 19 percent of the region’s cotton. Infestation levels range from 1.4 percent to 55 percent. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia have high numbers of reniform nematodes.

“The pest is difficult to see,” Lawrence said. “We know yields decline year after year, and if we pull plants we can see the pests, including small egg masses and a kidney-shaped nematode in the root system. Root necrosis may also be apparent.”

Lawrence said 1,000 nematodes per 100 cc sample could reduce yield by 7 percent. “As populations increase, yield loss goes up. In Mississippi, we’ve seen a 153,000 bale reduction from nematode damage.”

Management, Lawrence says, depends on a combination of tactics, including rotation (resistant grain sorghum, corn, peanuts and wheat), tolerance (DP 420 RR), and chemicals (Temik, Telone, Vydate).

Precision application techniques, according to Texas A&M researcher Terry Wheeler, currently provide little help in controlling nematode populations. “Sampling costs,” she said, “limit our opportunity to profit from precision ag technology. Sampling is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. And we’ve seen no significant improvement in yield with variable rate applications versus total field treatments.”

Wheeler said sampling techniques are not accurate enough. Field populations range from 30 percent with no infestation, 30 percent with moderate and 30 percent with high levels.

“Also, yield losses vary according to weather and other factors. Chemicals must be applied at an effective rate to reduce nematode numbers and pesticides must be applied accurately.”

She said nematodes have “to be costing farmers yields before treatment is justified.”

Gus Lorenz, University of Arkansas, said nematodes “make life difficult for growers. After they put seed in the ground, they begin to lose choices. Farmers have to know what they need to do before the season starts. They need to know if they have nematodes and then they can consider control options.”

Lorenz said pesticide options for nematode and thrips control include Orthene, Temik, Di-Syston, Thimet, Gaucho/Adage, Telone and Vydate. “Temik is the best choice for in-furrow treatments for nematodes and thrips,” he said. “We get about a 50 pound yield advantage. Still, nematicides will not turn a sorry field into a good one and they work better some years than they do others.

“Nematodes are like weeds,” he said. “We can never control them, but we have to manage them. We usually don’t see a crop failure but nematodes will take the high off a good year and make a bad year even worse.

“We have no new management techniques, no new chemicals, no transgenic cultivars and no fertilizers or plant growth regulators to help control nematodes. And we can’t manage them if we don’t know what’s out there.”

Phil Roberts, University of California, Riverside, said an assay of root galls may prove a better sampling technique than counting pests in soil. He said an Acala type cotton, NemX, shows some resistance to root knot nematodes. “Even without treatments, it shows tremendous yield differential compared to non-resistant. This is not the greatest variety so it behooves us to put resistance traits in good varieties.”

Until that happens, he said, farmers have to rotate.

Root knot nematodes are the major problem in southwest Georgia, said Eddie McGriff, Decatur County agent. “We find some reniform in heavier soils.”

Two root knot species infest the area, the southern and the peanut. “Cotton is a non-host to the peanut root knot nematode. And peanuts are non-host to the southern, so we have a good rotation option.”

McGriff said farmers should watch for stunting, reddening of leaves and interveinal necrosis. “And pull roots up carefully for samples or the galls will fall off.”

He said routine sampling techniques will not differentiate between the two root knot species. “We have to pull samples and grow them on a tomato so we can tell by the galls.”

Sampling is necessary to determine if chemical treatment is justified, McGriff said. He said Telone and Temik are excellent options. Temik side dressed is “very good.”

He recommends that farmers “consider the field history. On acreage with multiple years of cotton, walk the fields carefully and look for symptoms.”

McGriff said rotation helps, but some corn varieties are not as good as others. “Farmers in this area have changed corn hybrids and some are more susceptible to nematodes. Southern nematode populations will carry over from corn, so we prefer not to plant cotton behind corn.”

McGriff said weed control also plays an important role. Some weeds will host nematode populations.

Panelists challenged seed companies to screen for nematode resistance and tolerance as they look for better varieties.

“We can’t always generate enough money with rotation crops to support our farm community infrastructure,” Shackleford said.

“Grow the best cotton possible,” said Wheeler. “The less stress the cotton faces, the less damage it will get from nematodes.”

e-mail: Rsmith@primediabusiness.com.

GPS could trim field crop herbicide costs

Doug Munier, who is based at Orland in Glenn County, says if only weedy portions of a field were sprayed, herbicide costs would be significantly reduced. "If you have a material that would otherwise cost $30 per acre and apply it to only 10 percent of the field, you have a $3 per acre treatment."

Munier, outlining field-mapping advances to colleagues at the recent conference in San Jose of the California Weed Science Society, said, "This may open up possibilities for field-crop growers to very effectively use some of the more expensive postemergence herbicides on problem weeds."

Velvetleaf, he added, is an example of a tough weed that has invaded the Sacramento Valley. He theorizes that with mapping a grower could first spray scattered patches and return — without having to rely on memory -- the following year and spray those same sites again, whether the weeds were visible or not at the time.

Munier said the computerized technology, like herbicide-resistant crops, will be key in replacing manual hoeing in field crops. What’s more, he noted, it restores some of the familiarity farmers once had with individual fields, now lost with far larger farm acreages.

Three components

The site-specific technology is based on three components: the hardware for GPS, the software to manage data, and the hardware to manage control of the sprayer. GPS equipment, including handheld units accurate to four to five feet, is still pricey, but costs are dropping as more units are produced.

Growers can map weeds, by species, in their own fields with the equipment, he said. "If you are going to the trouble of manual mapping, it’s most useful to map the perennial weeds that slowly become established. Identify the early infestations, and eliminate or confine them."

Once the weed sites, which can number in the thousands, are entered into the equipment, the grower can survey points for each species and determine where best to apply certain herbicides.

If a weed is widespread across a field, the site-specific method has less potential, and the entire field would likely have to be sprayed.

Human perception, he said, can underestimate a weed population across a field and underscores the need for more exact methods. Munier asked two farm managers well-acquainted with a field to estimate the number of spots of johnsongrass in the field. One said 20, the other said 30, but Munier said he mapped more than 100.

Bollgard II cottons near for SJV

Cotton varieties containing the Bollgard II gene will be tested on a limited basis this year in the valley and should be available for commercial use within two seasons, according to Alan Bishop, regional sales manager for Monsanto.

Bishop told growers at a recent Delta and Pine Land Co. meeting in Tulare, Calif., that also soon to come will be the next generation of Roundup Ready cotton which will open wider the treatment window beyond the four-leaf stage at increased Roundup rates. He said these should be commercially available in 2005.

The transgenic Bollgard II cottons will target armyworms and loopers, two worm pests not controlled by the initial Bollgard gene that is widely used elsewhere in the Cotton Belt to control pink bollworm and cotton bollworm, neither of which is a significant pest in the San Joaquin Valley.

Worms that feed on the Bollgard cottons ingest the Bt toxin and die before damaging the plants.

Bishop said 78 percent of the cotton acres in the U.S. were planted to transgenic cottons last season. This encompasses herbicide resistant and cotton resistant to insects. Seventy percent of the acreage was Roundup Ready, either alone or as a stacked gene with Bt. Six years ago there were no transgenic cottons in the U.S.

SJV producers have embraced roundup Ready cottons, but it still lags behind the rest of the Belt. Only 37 percent of the SJV acreage was in herbicide resistant cotton last season.

New formulation

For Roundup Ready cotton this season, growers will be using a new Roundup formulation for use over the top and at layby. It is called Roundup UltraMax and there is five pounds active ingredient per gallon.

Bishop said it is a more concentrated glyphosate formulation and therefore less material is used. Where producers used a quart of Roundup Ultra they would use only 26 ounces of UltraMax, Bishop said.

This is only one new Roundup formulation. Another is called Firepower, which is a new produce for use on vegetation on trees and vines. It is a tank mix of Roundup and Goal and is not labeled for Roundup Ready cotton. Roundup Dry also is not recommended for cotton.

Deltapine was the first to introduce Roundup Ready cottons to the valley and will have two herbicide resistant varieties to market this season, one hopefully an Acala.

Deltapine 6100RR is an Acala up for approval in March by the San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board. It was the first Roundup Ready cotton tested in the valley, but it was rejected as an Acala last year by the board.

Deltapine sales manager Bill White said he is hopeful it will be approved as an Acala by the board in March. If approved, it would sell for the Acala premium. If not, it would be tossed into the so-called California Upland category and discounted against Acala.

"If managed aggressively, it will do very well. You have to have the correct plant population and manage against early lygus and be aggressive with Pix. It has yielded more than five bales in trials at the West Side Field Station," said White.

Only smooth leaf

"It is the only smooth leaf Acala and as such is less attractive to whitefly and aphids," he said. It also is more heat tolerant and has low seed coat fragments.

Deltapine will market its DP6207. It is dropping 6111 from the lineup as well as its White Pima. White said there would be strip trials of 6207RR this season. Deltapine 5415RR, a non-Acala, also will be marketed in the valley.

Deltapine will market three Pimas, HTO, DP 340 and DP 744, the latter two are new varieties. This is the first year for 340. White warns it has lower vigor than other Pimas, but has a yield potential of more than three bales.

More herbicide-tolerant crops, registrations seen

Dill, a panelist at the recent California Weed Science Society conference in San Jose, said his company has six years in the herbicide-tolerant crops marketplace, which has expanded to 125 million acres around the world.

Herbicide-tolerant traits, developed either through regulated biotechnology or time-consuming classical breeding and selection, are appearing in corn, cotton, soybeans, rice, canola, wheat, sugarcane, alfalfa, flowers, and vegetables, and management systems for them have sprung up also.

In the U.S., systems of herbicide-tolerant varieties and companion herbicides have swept into 60 percent of the cotton, 70 percent of the soybeans, 47 percent of the canola, and 25 percent of the corn.

He said canola has peaked and cotton and soybean systems are expected to level off in the next couple of years, but he sees room for growth with systems for corn.

Among the issues of the expanding industry is weed resistance to herbicides. Monsanto’s Roundup, in use for the past 30 years, is no exception. But this does not mitigate the use of the product, said Dill, who is technical portfolio chemistry lead for the company.

Annual ryegrass has shown resistance to glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, in wheat in Australia and in orchards in the U.S., South Africa, and Chile. Mare’s tail also presented a challenge for the product in soybeans and cotton in the U.S.

Management key

"We at Monsanto have found that in these cases management is the key, and we have been very aggressive with a program to solve these problems. In the case of ryegrass, we’ve used pre- and postemergent chemistries, including those of other companies," Dill said.

Mowing to prevent seed formation, mechanical tillage, and crop rotations were also tailored into a management program with the herbicide-tolerant feature at the center.

Monsanto, he said, is also working with universities in the Midwest to examine the possibilities of weed shifts in Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, but none has been found so far.

Some benefit has accrued from growers changing to narrower soybean row configurations that encourage the crop canopy to shade out weeds earlier.

Dill said his company has issued a series of guidelines for growers using herbicide-tolerant cropping systems. The basics: stick to recommended rates, avoid tank-mixes that reduce Roundup efficiency, support rotations of Roundup Ready crops, use Monsanto-developed premix formulations, and report any instances of repeated non-performance.

He expects, he added, to see an increase in current herbicide-tolerant crops, along with expansion, within limits imposed by regulations, of crops directly consumed by humans.

Another panelist, Cliff Gerwick, a herbicide discovery research manager with Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, said new herbicides are bound to encounter resistance in weeds, so managing existing herbicide "portfolios" is essential to protect them from future resistance.

"But probably the main reason and the one that is most exciting to me is the innovation in finding new molecular target sites has not stopped with herbicide-tolerant crops."

He said his company is ready for the next generation of tools for weed control, and new molecular target sites, or proteins in weeds that are affected by herbicides, are an important part. Some target sites, but not all, are linked with the "mode of action of the herbicide."

The herbicide industry has about 280 active ingredients and 28 commercial herbicides with unknown modes of action but only 12 molecular target sites.

"Relatively few modes of action make up the bulk of what we spray today, and that is a driver for discovery of new target sites," he said, adding that breakthroughs are increasingly difficult to achieve.

The discovery process can begin with the chemical screening of natural products or traditional herbicides to find a target site.

DNA fingerprinting

Or the process can begin with the target site itself, using DNA technology to find the site and then developing chemistry to affect it. A slight decrease in the level of a protein in a weed may reveal a sensitive target site for a herbicide. Gerwick said he was most excited about prospects of DNA fingerprinting to identify a target site in a plant to see how it reacts to a compound.

Ultimately, he predicted, the discovery of new target sites will depend on an integrated approach using both chemistry and molecular biology, while breakthroughs will occur as a result of the initiative and curiosity of researchers.

Providing a perspective on generic herbicides, often defined as those no longer under patent, was panelist Jim Bone, vice president of product development and governmental affairs for Griffin LLC in Valdosta, Ga.

Bone said discontinuance of a herbicide is most likely due, not to a lack of efficacy, but because it "fails to meet the economic expectations of the registrant."

Those failures are reflected, he said, in the U.S. crop protection chemicals market, which sank by 12 to 15 percent in 2000 and perhaps as much as 25 percent in 2001.

Patents have expired for more than 70 percent of the existing materials, while costs of discovering new products are increasing. At the same time, public sector funding of herbicide research has dropped sharply, and private efforts must bear the costs.

An attraction of generics is the expectation that they cost less than counterpart proprietary products. "You don’t find many generic products staying around that don’t have the ability to bring a return for the investment of the user," Gerwick said.

Inert ingredients

Opportunities for discovery of new products rest with the inert ingredient portion of generics. "It’s possible today to make significant changes to the level of activity of a product based on what you add to enhance or modify the method of delivery." Those include rain-fastness and how the product penetrates the cuticle or other leaf structures.

Aside from improvements or price, he continued, the primary reason for generics remaining on the market is the confidence growers place in them after years of use.

On its pathway to marketing, a generic may be off to a good start after being previously registered and having a source of supply.

"But that’s when the trouble starts," he said. "It must also be substantially similar to the currently registered product. This has become a nightmare-and-a-half for several interesting reasons."

First, the chemical "signature" of the original registration with EPA may not necessarily be the same as the product today because of subtle refinements in production efficiency or other processes of manufacture. The registration is based on the signature of original active ingredient, not what it became years later.

Binding arbitration is often required to determine data compensation the generic marketer owes the original registrant.

The generic marketer may also have to consider revising an original label to reflect current practices that have evolved since the original registration.

Finally, but certainly not least of all, registration by EPA is not sufficient for California’s registration procedure, which takes time.

The generic segment of the crop protection chemicals industry has shifted from what it was a decade ago, he said. It once had little to do with registration and virtually picked up manufacturing and sailed away, so to speak, but today it shoulders the main burden for registration.

"Often we have to carry on extreme regulatory activity which is based less on what is known than what is rumored. Many of us are fighting the battle over alleged endocrine disruption, even after a researcher admitted he falsified data. EPA decided it was a good idea for us to develop some endocrine data, whether the reported data was true or not."

Topping the list for the most-used generic herbicides are glyphosate, paraquat, atrazine, metalachlor, and 2,4-5. Bone named the "top players" as Monsanto, Syngenta, Makhteshim-Agan (Israel), Nufarm (Australia), and Griffin.

He also credited some expansion of the generic segment to herbicide cost reduction gained through mixtures of various products. "As I travel around the United States, I see more people using mixtures to get at specific problems than I’ve seen before. When I ask why, they say they can do it for less than $12 an acre."