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Articles from 1999 In December


Tile line tales

Use of lower rates of nitrogen can cut input costs without hurting yield.

Researchers in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture were perplexed. After interviewing 600 farmers in the state, they found that many were applying 30 lbs. more nitrogen than what the University of Minnesota recommended.

Most of these cases were farms where manure was applied in addition to commercial fertilizer. "On those farms, it was common to see overapplications of 30 to 70 lbs./acre," says Bruce Montgomery, unit supervisor of special projects with the department.

The observation meant one of two things, Montgomery says. Either the university recommendations needed to be changed or growers needed to be convinced to adopt current recommendations, which take into account proper manure and legume crediting.

"Many of the farmers were using recommendations dating back to the late '70s and early '80s," says Montgomery. "But many of the University of Minnesota recommendations have dropped anywhere from 30 to 60 lbs. over the past decade."

Field-scale test. To validate the current recommendations, the Min-nesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Minnesota River Educa-tional Initiative and Brown-Nicollet Clean Water Partnership decided to conduct a field-scale test. They chose Rob and Janice Meyer's farm near St. Peter, MN. The city is experiencing elevated nitrate levels in its public water supply.

The Meyers' field was an ideal test site because the tile lines are arranged in a grid pattern with no tile inlets, which enabled researchers to isolate the field and know that whatever came out the main tile came from that field.

"I think all farmers are stewards of the land," says Rob Meyer. "And if something is coming out through the lines I want to be the first to know because it is wasteful and costing us money."

For five years, starting in 1995, the Department of Agriculture monitored all of the nutrients and pesticides that were applied to one 60-acre field and then measured how much of the input was lost through the tile lines. Yield was also measured.

Varying rates and timing. The first year Meyer applied his normal rates of nitrogen on corn - 140 to 150 lbs. plus the nitrogen contained in the diammonium phosphate he applied. Tile line measurements after application showed nitrate concentrations as high as 20 to 30 ppm.

Following researchers' advice, Meyer lowered his rates to 110 to 120 lbs./acre the next time he planted corn. He also changed the timing of his application from fall to spring based on the university's Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Nitrogen Use.

Just by changing the rate and timing, they were able to reduce the nitrate levels found in the tile lines to 10 and 15 ppm, a 40 to 50% reduction, without reducing yield, according to David Pfarr, University of Minnesota extension agent.

"That to me is positive," says Pfarr. "It shows that we can get back to good old BMPs and university recommendations, and we can reduce the amount of nitrate coming out of our tile and thus into our ditches and rivers."

In 1997, on a small parcel of the same field, researchers applied four different rates of nitrogen - 60, 90, 130 and 160 lbs. - in strips and measured yield to find how different nitrogen rates affect yield. The optimum yields were found around the 90-lb. rate, which falls in line with university recommendations. How-ever, researchers say that because of a wide error variance in the data, more years of testing are needed before deciding on one optimum rate for the Meyers' field.

Herbicides also measured. Researchers also measured the amount of herbicides that came out of the tile lines. For each of the five years, different compounds were applied at their recommended rates. The compounds tested were trifluralin (Treflan), imazethapyr (Pur-suit), metolachlor (Dual and Dual II), nicosulfuron (Accent), dicamba (Banvel) and acetochlor (Surpass).

The two low-application-rate chem-icals, Accent and Pursuit, were barely detectable in the tile lines, according to Paul Wotzka, hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of Agri-culture. "The typical application rate for Accent is .03 lb./acre versus 2 lbs./acre for metolachlor," he says. "So there is 100 times less mass of the product going on the field to begin with. The fact that we can control weeds by putting that little of a compound on has been an eye opener for a lot of people."

Based on these findings, Wotzka recommends the use of low-use-rate chemicals like Accent and Pursuit over higher-rate alternatives. "Accent is a great compound from the standpoint that we hardly ever see it in the tile lines," he says. "And the farmer has been very pleased with the performance of that compound."

Nationwide application. Uni-versity of Minnesota's Pfarr says the study results have application for all Midwest farmers because of the low cost of nitrogen fertilizer and the tendency to bump up rates.

"I think it is important for farmers to continually challenge themselves on the rates," Pfarr says. "It is easy to slip to the upper end on the rates and feel a comfort level there."

The researchers hope to survey 50 to 60 more sites in southern Minne-sota using the same rates and protocol to further validate the findings.

Other states, such as Iowa and Indiana, have conducted similar studies.

Nitrogen and BMP recommendations are different for each state based on rainfall, soil types, topography and other factors. For more information on the current university recommendations in your state, contact your county extension agent.

Purchasing power

Buying group pool purchase orders for maximum discounts on inputs.

Bob Johnson is the ultimate shopper. From a modest office on his family's hog and grain operation near DeKalb, IL, he and three staff members buy farm products for 1,400 farmers. Every day, they handle invoices for seed, feed and short-line equipment amounting to more than $15 million a year.

"My job is purchasing agent for farmers," Johnson reports. He negotiates prices and buys farm inputs for members of Mid-West Co-ops, which probably ranks as the oldest and largest buying group in the Midwest devoted to farmers. The entire group of co-ops buys up to $50 million a year in products. Started in 1959, Mid-West's operations today include 29 local cooperatives scattered throughout Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri.

Because of the cooperative's purchasing volume and reputation, it commands maximum discount levels on farm inputs. The discounts are passed on to members, allowing a typical member with 1,000 acres to pay prices similar to those paid by a 10,000-acre farmer.

Johnson, manager of Mid-West, estimates the co-op encompasses 1_1/2 million acres of cropland and 5% of the country's hog production.

The cooperative originally started with pork producers who pooled feed ingredient orders and made their own feed. Feed costs dropped dramatically. Today, many of those producers are still in business, due in part to lower input costs.

"Grouped buying gave us a competitive advantage over our neighbor," Johnson says, who is a partner in his family's 1,200-sow and 2,200-acre crop operation. "Now, it is survival that is at stake. We can't leave anything on the table. We have to use every possible tool to be competitive because our competitor is changing."

Grain farmers are learning this lesson now, too, he adds. With poor commodity prices and high-priced land, lower input costs are becoming critical. Farmers need to examine and seek lower-priced inputs to cut costs. Paying attention to purchasing habits is one way to do this.

Experience. Johnson has learned good purchasing habits through experience. He has been manager of his local group, DKM Co-op, since 1974. In 1984 he and his wife, Jeannie, also took over management of Mid-West.

Since the Johnsons became managers, Mid-West has added 10 local groups and about 500 farmer members. The growth comes through word of mouth; the co-op does not solicit members. In fact, members are forbidden to discuss "deals" gained through the cooperative for fear of alienating local dealers and suppliers.

Individual farmers can learn from many of the strategies Johnson employs to negotiate and purchase farm inputs for the cooperative. Here's a look at some of the co-op's buying practices that may help any farmer gain a price edge.

Maintain good credit

Nothing beats the value of good credit when negotiating prices with a supplier. "Suppliers know if they send us a bill with a 10-day cash discount, they'll have their money in 10 days and we'll take care of the rest," Johnson says. "This cuts [the supplier's] bookkeeping and collection costs."

Mid-West can maintain this reputation because it in turn accepts only cash from members. A member's order must be paid within 15 days of delivery. All co-ops in the Mid-West system operate on the same cash basis.

To head off credit problems early, some of the member co-ops require farmer members to complete a credit survey that asks them to estimate their purchases for the next year. The member's banker must sign the form, indicating that a line of credit or money is on deposit to cover the obligations. Members not filling out a survey form must send money along with each order.

"The survey is not a letter of credit or a guarantee, but everybody is on notice that we expect to be paid and there are funds available," Johnson explains. "We've never had a credit loss at DKM or Mid-West."

Farmers with money problems do not buy from the cooperative. "I noticed in the 1980s that some large customers became small customers," Johnson relates. "Their business shifted to companies extending credit. They evidently didn't want to put their fellow co-op members at risk."

Pay cash

"Cash is always valuable," Johnson advises. "If you have a reputation as a good cash customer who knows what you want, orders early and doesn't change orders, you will get better terms."

A farmer who can eliminate financing will do better in price negotiations than a farmer needing financing. "Suppliers like good clean business," Johnson says. "When they get into financing and don't know if they will be able to collect, that will be built into the price."

Seek impartial advice

Many of Mid-West's co-op members believe it is important to separate where they get recommendations for crop or livestock inputs from where they do their purchasing, according to Johnson. This eliminates questions about biased advice.

Play fair

"History and credibility are worth a lot as a co-op and as an individual," Johnson says. Suppliers that have worked with farmers in the past and found them to be honest will generally offer them a better deal on everything from discounts to service.

"The golden rule applies in business," he adds. "Not taking advantage of people and being square with them is important, particularly in agriculture where you go back to the same suppliers over and over. If you treat them fairly and resolve problems or challenges in an equitable way, then you get a better deal down the road than if you hadn't."

Pool orders

Mid-West also gains purchasing power through a streamlined ordering system. Co-op members place orders through their local co-op. The manager places the orders using Mid- West's price lists. Invoices go to Mid-West for payment to the supplier and billing to the members.

Ordering through local groups allows a fast turnaround time for orders and cuts down on the number of staff members needed at Mid-West. Billing through Mid-West remains a big selling point to suppliers because they only need to work with one office instead of 1,400 farmers or 29 cooperatives, Johnson explains.

Feed and seed orders are handled differently. Mid-West collects and then places those orders. For seed, farmers must decide what they want to buy, often by gathering information from local seed reps. Mid-West negotiates a corporate discount or pricing structure for the whole cooperative system. Then the orders flow through the Mid-West office. The seed is delivered through local seed dealers to co-op members' farms.

Buy early

"Historically, buying chemicals and seed early has had an advantage in that you get priority on hybrids or chemicals that will be in short supply, as well as early payment discounts," Johnson says. Usually, the co-op makes its purchases as early as possible. In the last two years, that policy worked against it. "If you ordered early (on seed), you were disadvantaged because several seed companies offered additional discounts to late purchasers," Johnson recalls.

The co-op participates in some pre-pay programs offered by equipment suppliers, such as bin companies. The programs require orders or payment in the winter to obtain the best discounts. The discounts are available until the money is used up during the next year.

Keep overhead low

After 40 years, the cooperative itself still doesn't own a desk or computer. Intent on keeping overhead low, the cooperative pays Johnson a management fee to handle the business. The fee is a surcharge included on all bills as a separate item. Johnson uses the fee to maintain his office and a small warehouse, pay staff and purchase computers and other office equipment. Most of the local co-ops also operate this way, including DKM.

Johnson expects that, in the future, orders and payments will be made over the Internet, reducing office costs even further.

"Traditional co-ops build infrastructure and overhead and become full-service entities," Johnson says. "They serve a large segment of agriculture but leave behind people like us who don't necessarily want to pay for all that infrastructure."

What's hot for 2000? Seed that has not been genetically modified will be in demand, Johnson predicts. "I suspect there will be an awful lot of interest going back to more conventional genetics," he says. "And I think seed companies will be hard put to supply enough conventional seed of good current genetics."

High-oil corn remains very attractive to cooperative members who raise corn to feed hogs, Johnson adds.

With the poor commodity markets, equipment is not a popular item right now. Co-op members are buying only to repair. And just a few purchased grain bins and augers for the 1999 harvest season.

Mid-West does not handle chemicals. But several local co-ops are chemical dealers. Even though DKM purchases $3 million in chemicals a year, Johnson still cannot negotiate a discounted price.All manufacturers set one price for each chemical regardless of the distributor or dealer.

However, as a chemical dealer, DKM usually receives manufacturer program payments that arrive in November or December. Usually dealers use these funds to upgrade equipment and maintain their licensed chemical facilities. But DKM does not own application equipment and only runs a modest, licensed bulk facility. It passes most of the money on to its members in the form of patronage refunds, and therefore the members are indirectly receiving a price break on chemicals.

Viable future. With half its membership in pork production and the other half dealing with low grain prices, the future of Mid-West may look cloudy. But Johnson is optimistic.

"Many of us are doing okay," he says. "We may not like the direction things are going. But we are figuring out how to fit in. The key is to look at what we're doing and adopt the tools that other businesses use."

A few other buying groups besides Mid-West Co-ops help farmers purchase inputs. An Ohio-based group called Premium Agricultural Commodities Inc. (PACI) has pooled fertilizer, chemical and short-line equipment orders for 25 years. Today, the 27 producers involved in PACI together buy several million dollars worth of inputs a year.

Joanie Grimes, PACI manager, says the group usually obtains a discount of 5 to 50% on straight retail prices. For the average PACI member with 4,000 acres, the price savings can make a big impact on a bottom line.

Grimes negotiates the prices with suppliers, promising certain volumes based on the group's needs. PACI producers together farm 120,000 acres of cropland.

A buying group like this is not for every producer. Grimes says members must be willing to give up some independence and work for the good of the group. At the same time, members must be willing to cooperate with one another and be loyal to the organization. "It takes a unique group to get that done," she adds.

Members gain other benefits from PACI besides lower input costs. Grimes says each member tests a product every year on 50 to 100 acres. Results are reported back to the group at monthly meetings. "The information we gather from one another is almost priceless," she says.

Now the group has branched into another area - marketing. Grimes seeks contracts for value-added crops and other marketing programs to make members additional dollars.

"The margins in agricultural business have gotten so small that there is only so much we can save," Grimes explains. "But as far as marketing, there are different areas we can tap where our return is so much greater than anything we can save on inputs."

Acknowledging that the future of farming will be tough for everyone, Grimes adds, "But if anybody is going to make it, these guys will."

Mature and shrinking fast

The ag chem industry is changing almost daily with layoffs, spin-offs, ventures with enemies, and merger plays where human drugs take priority over agriculture. What's next and what does it mean for you?

After almost 60 years since 2,4-D ushered in the herbicide era that helped reinvent production agriculture in America, some chemical makers are facing judgment day. It's driven by technology, price/value competition, a brutal farm economy, overcapacity, distribution inefficiency and demanding stockholders.

Such consolidation isn't new. Just take a quick scan into the past: Stauffer and ICI into Zeneca; PPG, Chevron and Sumitomo into Valent; Union Carbide, Mobil and now Hoechst/AgrEvo into Rhone-Poulenc to become Aventis; Velsicol, Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy become Novartis; Shell and Pioneer into DuPont; Dekalb and Holdens into Monsanto; Mycogen into Dow AgroSciences; Shell International into Cyanamid into American Home Products; and on and on. The latest speculation at press time is that DuPont or Monsanto will merge with Novartis.

Cost cutting. "Large chemical companies are inefficient and must figure out how to lower the delivered cost of goods to the grower," says Fulton Breen, president and CEO of XSAg.com, an Internet-based "exchange floor" for specific ag inputs. "This is a natural response for industries in the mature phase of their life cycle and shareholders are demanding it. Companies must consolidate sales, marketing and R&D because this industry can't support 2,200-plus sales reps, $1.5 billion in marketing programs and $1.5 billion in distribution channel markups.

"For the industry in general and growers in particular, it's a good thing and the right thing to happen," Breen responds. "Free and efficient markets have long made America great; it's just that change is uncomfortable for many people."

John Rabby, vice president and general manager of Cyanamid's U.S. crop protection group, says that this is a sign of the times. "The market has been devalued by hundreds of millions of dollars, but the needed corrections being taken will result in a much stronger industry," he states.

Price of technology. Jim Wilbur, stock analyst covering the ag industry for Salomon Smith Barney, sees one unique aspect of a maturing market. "A difference here is you don't often have a major new technology [Roundup Ready] compound an already competitive market by forcing long-term price reductions on the rest of the industry in order for them to compete," Wilbur says. "So to survive, you see companies like Cyanamid and DuPont take deep product discounts, which are great for the farmer's bottom line, but has inevitably led to cost cutting, layoffs and more mergers in an effort to retain profits and stock prices in this competitive environment."

Rhone-Poulenc (R-P), in the midst of merging with Hoechst/AgrEvo to form Aventis by the end of the year, finds itself, like many farmers, at a crossroads. "In this brutal farm economy full of overproduced commodities, farmers are looking at every aspect of their operations to cut costs, evaluate systems and reduce risks," says R-P's Dave Downing, herbicide and fungicide team leader. "So are we, just on a much larger scale. But we're both trying to establish or find our critical mass to compete."

Applying focus. Breen, an ag chem company marketing veteran prior to his current e-commerce foray, says that industry survival, for chemical companies and farmers, comes down to leveraging your core competency. "In general, companies have to look at what they're great at relative to their competitors and make a bet on developing that attribute to its extreme.

"Monsanto made a very big bet on biotech 15 years ago, and it is now beginning to pay off," Breen continues. "DuPont, with Pioneer, has made a bet on the output side of biotech grain traits that will probably pay off down the road. At XSAg.com, our bet is that a neutral trading floor for buyers and sellers of ag inputs will make American agribusiness more efficient. Will that guarantee our success? Who knows?"

Price/service relationship. As the Internet begins to play an increasing role in how farmers buy chemicals, seed and other goods, companies are spending time online to judge its impact on their businesses. "E-commerce will definitely have an impact on pricing, distribution structure and the service sector, but it's too early to judge value," Wilbur adds.

Breen, obviously a believer in the Internet, feels that farmers will pay for exactly the amount of service they desire, whether it's tied to a product purchase or not.

"The farmer understands the value of services based on his local experiences. With the advent of the Internet, he'll now know the market value of his inputs as well. The amount he has been paying above that is the 'relationship premium,'" Breen says. "But, in tough times, farmers can ill afford to pay a hefty premium to suppliers. In a neutral trading exchange, they can now quickly gather price information on inputs and negotiate fair market values for services from their suppliers."

Downing believes more access to information "will make the farmer a more critical buyer in the future to reduce his costs, but we still see him keeping his local dealer and/or custom applicator in the loop to provide the services and perhaps bundled products he desires."

Who will handle products? Cyanamid, the champion behind the AgriCenter concept that is now synonymous with all ag chem retailers, is now looking to streamline the channel. "Given tougher economic times, we realize that we must get product to the market in a more timely and efficient manner," Rabby says. "This means that we'll be focusing more on key distributors and less on invoicing relationships with retailers. That doesn't mean we'll drop relationships, but they will change in the future to be more business focused."

Breen thinks that distributors and dealers will continue with warehousing and delivery but expects dealers to not only expand their services to farmers, but also to basic manufacturers. "We'll see chemical companies paying dealers to do some tasks that sales reps used to handle, as well as create the warmth and goodwill."

New products? Considering the fact that farmers currently have a wide variety of effective herbicides now that control most any weed at economical prices, industry sources don't see much new chemistry being developed for Midwest row crops.

"It is so extremely difficult and expensive to develop new products that could beat current efficacy and value in the marketplace," Downing adds.

"Companies are becoming more efficient at R&D, and the research effort will shift from mass screening of molecules for new herbicidal active ingredients to the use of functional genomics to develop new compounds," Breen says.

Issues that cloud. While genetically modified (GM) crops met a wall of resistance in Europe, no one predicts that this attitude will reach our shores with any serious impact. But you can bet it is causing potential merger partners to think twice before leaping.

"The issue of GM crops is causing a huge quagmire right now," Wilbur says. "And when the real growth potential of most chemical company mergers is in pharmaceuticals, the ag divisions that deal in GM technology may cause negotiations to change."

Downing believes the industry and the American consumer will ultimately get past this issue but says, "It may take a few years and some good output traits to help consumers understand the good science behind the technology."

Cyanamid's Rabby also says that it is unfortunate that the current emotion behind the issue of GM crops isn't based on sound science. "Once consumers have the choice of foods that offer them health or nutritional benefits, they probably will look at this technology differently. We have to do a better job as an industry in understanding public acceptance issues in introducing this new technology," he says.

Despite the challenges and survival-of-the-fittest mode occurring in the ag chem business, and down on the farm, lessons gained from tough times can make for better input and service suppliers in the long run.

Team FIN farmers rate work boots

We asked our hard-working Team FIN members to put a variety of work boots to the test by wearing them while they planted, harvested, moved cattle and did their farm chores. They then rated and described the boots' "break-in" time, sturdiness, warmth, dryness and wear. Here are some of their findings that might help you when buying your next pair of boots.

Leather. According to the testers, stiff leather took a little longer to break in but held up better in the long run. Buy a boot that is both water- and oil-resistant.

Weight. If you do a lot of walking, you may want to consider the weight of the boot; heavier boots can tire your feet more quickly.

Height. How strong are your ankles? Try different boot heights, usually 6 and 8 in. If you can twist your ankle from side to side, choose a higher support or stiffer leather.

Lining. Northern or wet climates demand a lined boot for winter. Thinsulate and Gore-Tex linings are available for warmth, among others, and breathable air insoles allow air to circulate and release moisture.

Seam Stitching. Look for double or triple stitching. The wider the stitched seam, the flatter it will be on the inside of the boot, alleviating sore spots during break-in time.

Sole. Self-cleaning soles allow you to easily kick dirt, mud and snow off the boot. Deep-treaded designs tend to hold the debris in.

Steel toes. For safety around the farm, a steel toe is warranted. Boots with steel toes are usually tax deductible if they are considered safety equipment.

Laces. How often do you change your boots in a day? Hooks are faster, so choose a lacing method based on your habits.

For more information on the boots we tested, contact Danner Shoe Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, 12722 N.E. Airport Way, Portland, OR 97230, 800/345-0430; Case Corp., Dept. FIN, 700 State St., Racine, WI 53404, 800/288-2846; Durango Boot, Dept. FIN, 1810 Columbia Ave., Franklin, TN 37064, 615/794-1556; or Caterpillar Foot-wear, Div. of Wolverine, Dept. FIN, 9341 Courtland Dr. N.E., Rockford, MI 49351, 616/866-6271.

Specialty grain chain

Farm manager and retail group unite to match growers with processors

A unique venture that links growers with suppliers and end processors should be ready for business by the beginning of the 2000 growing season. The new venture, Farmers National Marketing Group (FNMG), will help farmers find more contracting opportunities for growing value-added specialty crops.

The group plans to secure contracts with processors for several million acres of value-added crops. An alliance of about 20 leading agricultural retail suppliers across the Midwest will supply inputs for the massive production blocks.

Two owners created the new venture. One owner is Farmers National Company, a large farm management company located in Omaha, NE. It plans to tap into the tenants of the 3,700 farms it manages in 22 states. The other owner is Farrell Growth Group LLC, Kansas City, MO, an alliance of retail and wholesale agricultural fertilizer and supply businesses.

FNMG will contact processors about specialty-grain contracts for growers. Then, depending on the type of specialty grain needed and where it will be processed, FNMG will solicit growers able to help fulfill the contracts. Chet Boruff, FNMG vice president, says the group is putting together a database of information about the farms working with it that includes each farm's location, soil type, fertility and yield data. This database will allow FNMG to find the most suitable growing conditions for each specialty crop.

"Our whole intent is to put together the most efficient system possible to get value-added grain to the processor," Boruff says. Using the yield and soil information, the group should be able to offer the processor consistent and high-quality grains. In addition, it will offer growers premium prices for the grain.

The new venture also has a special arrangement with a bin manufacturer to construct bins when a grower needs more space for the specialty grains. When growers need financing to build the bins, FNMG has another arrangement with Brenton Banks of Iowa to provide a simple financing program in several states.

"We tried to remove as many barriers as we could in the production of these specialty grains and value-added crops," Boruff adds. "Farmers need to have more alternatives in the marketplace than their standard commodity corn and soybeans."

Mixing Roundup and residual

New herbicide premixes with Pursuit and Scepter are ready for 2000.

Soybean growers may choose two new herbicides from American Cyanamid for use on Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans next spring: Extreme and Backdraft.

Extreme combines the residual control of Pursuit with the glyphosate found in Roundup. Backdraft combines the burndown activity of glyphosate with residual control of Scepter designed for southern applications. The company expects final registration approval for both products this winter from the EPA.

Farmer driven. The development of the premixes marks a change in the way products usually are brought to market. Typically a company develops product ideas, tests them in the market and releases them if the interest is there. In this case, however, the company asked farmers about their chemical needs first and then developed the two premixes.

Cyanamid conducted extensive interviews with growers and hired researchers to determine grower needs. Overwhelmingly, the growers reported they wanted a product to provide residual weed control in addition to the contact control of Roundup. Such a product would keep soybean fields clean through the growing season, which the growers rated as being very important to them.

"We learned farmers understand residual activity and know how to use it," reports Cyanamid product manager Jeff Klock. "We tested to see if growers were interested in Roundup with Pursuit. They showed us they were if it was priced to value." As a result, Cyanamid signed an agreement with Monsanto to use the glyphosate found in Roundup.

Dual control in the Cornbelt. Growers in the Cornbelt may use Extreme for burndown and residual control of many broadleaf and grassy weeds in soybeans. It may be applied to no-till soybeans before planting, which is earlier than farmers are able to apply Roundup Ultra. Or growers may apply Extreme postemergence to RR soybeans for weed control.

The company reports that Extreme controls late flushes of weeds like nightshade, morningglory, velvetleaf and foxtail, eliminating the need for a second application of Roundup Ultra. Extreme will be labeled for control of more than 50 broadleaf weeds and grasses.

The rate of application is 3 pts./acre on weeds up to 8 in. tall. It will be available in bulk and 2_1/2-gal. jugs.

A southern product. The company's other new product, Backdraft, offers soybean growers in the southern Cornbelt and mid-south extra weed control. Usually, southern growers make three applications of Roundup to control weeds: burndown, early postemergence and late postemergence. Backdraft may be used for burndown and residual control, eliminating one Roundup application. Weeds like teaweed, morningglory and smartweed are controlled until the second application of Roundup. The premix also may be applied postemergence to RR soybeans.

The product is applied at 1_1/2 to 2 qts./acre as a burndown at planting. At this rate, it treats 2 to 2.7 acres of soybeans. The company recommends following it with a post application of Roundup Ultra herbicide.

The active ingredients in Extreme are imazethapyr and glyphosate. In Backdraft, the active ingredients are imazaquine and glyphosate.

Both products will be priced competitively with Roundup. For more information, contact American Cyanamid Co., Dept. FIN, North America Agricultural Products Div., Crop Protection Products, One Campus Dr., Parsippany, NJ 07054, 973/683-2000.

Crops department

Grain funnel spout

Control the flow of grain while filling semitrailers from your grain cart with J&M's hydraulically driven flow-control spout.

The housing of the spout fits 14- or 16-in. augers and comes complete with mounting hardware. When the spout is installed, you can control its angle for even filling from your tractor cab with supplied hydraulic lines and hardware. It fits any existing auger. List price: $425. Contact J&M Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 547, Ft. Recovery, OH 45846, 419/375-4860.

New seed for two thousand

A few seed companies are announcing new hybrids and varieties for spring planting.

Asgrow has eight new hybrids that are Roundup Ready (RR) (four of which also offer YieldGard protection) and four new YieldGard hybrids. Maturity dates range from 90 to 112 days. The company introduces seven new RR soybean varieties, two of which are offered for the northern climes. The company also offers two new options for sorghum.

Dekalb expands its lineup with 25 new corn hybrids, 12 with YieldGard protection. Maturity ranges from 86 to 114 days. For soybeans, there are 15 RR varieties in the Early II to Late V maturity groups. A new sorghum hybrid and a sunflower hybrid join the Dekalb lineup. The company also is introducing RR canola, its first offering of canola seed in the U.S.

Great Lakes Hybrids announces 26 new products, including three new RR hybrids, one with YieldGard, ten new conventional hybrids and one new Clearfield hybrid. Watch for 12 new soybean varieties: 10 are RR and two are STS.

>From NC+ comes technology that the company pitches as a "down to earth" philosophy in seed. A lineup totaling 47 new products includes three RR hybrids, three YieldGard Bt hybrids, two Clearfield (IMI) hybrids and 18 RR soybeans that include two new STS varieties. It also is offering 13 new conventional hybrids, one new white corn hybrid, two new conventional soybean varieties and two new grain sorghums. The company's first stacked-trait corn hybrid combines AgrEvo's StarLink for resistance to corn borer, Clearfield herbicides (including Lightning and Pursuit) and Liberty herbicide.

Bulk box hauler

Transport up to four Pioneer Probox seed boxes on the back of any truck or flatbed, equipped with a hoist, when you install the Pro Bulk Handler from Betam Manufacturing.

Three- and four-box models feature side rails that keep the loaded boxes in place for traveling safety. After boxes are positioned into the side rails of the handler, a rear plate and rod are inserted and all boxes are locked into place, unable to move or tip in any direction, according to the maker.

To disperse seed, you open the bottom slides of the Probox. Seed falls into the bottom tray of the Pro Bulk Handler, you hoist up the truck to an angle of about 20 degrees and the seed flows to the rear end gate. There a brush auger or conveyor delivers product to the planter.

In addition to holding three or four Proboxes (depending on the model), 50 units of seed store in the bottom tray of each model. Now an operator can take one to five different hybrids to the field at one time. The tray is made of poly material with rounded corners for cleanout. A fitted cover is available to make the tray completely waterproof. Contact Betam Mfg. Inc., Dept. FIN, RR 1, Box 92, Elbow Lake, MN 56531, 218/685-4150.

Along for the ride

Scientists at the ARS in Florida are using a gene vector (or carrier), called piggyBac, to alter the genetics of insects, which could have benefits for you and your grain storage.

The researchers found that a gene characteristic can be inserted inside piggyBac, which jumps into other genes and rides along on their chromosomes. The piggyBac gene then moves into the insect's DNA. Using this process, the insect's DNA can be manipulated in many different ways. Eventually, an alteration becomes part of the insect's genetic makeup.

The researchers tested the process by using a gene vector from the Mediterranean flour moth to create insects that lack an enzyme that helps produce its normal eye color. The black-eyed moths now have offspring that are born with red eyes.

Scientists are now testing this system in stored-product pests and are hoping to insert genes that cause sterility or death in insects under certain conditions, such as low temperatures.

Who will give me fifty?

Farm auction sites are popping up on the Web. Here's how to bid online.

If you are a bloodhound at local sales, you will still feel the thrill of a great deal at an online auction. We've found some bidding sites that offer unlimited geographical areas to help you unearth that one machine you've been searching for.

Online bidding will give you time to research and place your bid and allow you to make a safe transaction with confidence.

Dealer's choice. John Deere's Remarketing Services recently opened its auction Web site, www.MachineFinderAuction.com. It offers any make or model of used equipment from Deere's certified dealers.

As with other auction sites, when you register as a buyer, current auctions are made available to you based on your zip code. Dealers that submit equipment make their own prices and give a starting bid. If you win the bid, the company's Remarketing Service sends an e-mail to the dealer. The dealer contacts you to handle the transaction and decide on shipping method.

"We provide inspection forms to our dealers, which they complete and make available online," says Bill Holstun, manager, John Deere Remarketing Services. "As a buyer, you can confirm all the information given by calling the seller."

Holstun stresses that you do as much research as possible before your final bid. "We encourage buyers even to go see the machine. Become as prudent a buyer as you can," he adds. "Buying through online auctions can let you do that. You have more time to spend researching, monitoring activity and communicating with the seller, and you have a large geographical area of items available to you. This way, you can find just what you're looking for and make an intelligent bid, instead of an emotional one."

Barry White, president of www.FarmEquipmentAuctions.com, says his company works as a "salesperson" between buyer and seller. "We go out and evaluate the machinery, take pictures and help the sellers and buyers make the transaction, including setting up trucking," White says. "We offer an avenue not only for dealers but also farmers who are selling a large amount of equipment."

The company charges sellers $70 per item listed and takes a 5% commission of the sale. "For individuals wanting to sell a piece of equipment over $1,000, we also have a site [www.OnlineAuctionCenter.com] that charges $25 plus a 11/4% commission," he adds. "On both sites, we guarantee a safe transaction."

The company also will take a trade-in in exchange for "bidding bucks" that you can use for purchasing your next piece of equipment.

Safe bidding. Like other sites, www.MotorAuction.com offers the availability of an escrow service, such as www.iEscrow.com, that becomes the middleman of the transaction. After winning a bid, the buyer pays the escrow service. The seller isn't paid until the buyer has had a chance to inspect the machine and is satisfied with the purchase.

MotorAuction.com also offers a certification program. The buyer or seller can choose to have the machine inspected by an authorized, farm equipment service technician for certification. This site also offers financing and insurance.

Check it out. Some sites offer a buyer's and seller's feedback rating system. Here, you have a chance as a buyer to see the seller's satisfaction record, or vice versa. You also can look up the company and its rating on the Better Business Bureau's site, www.BBBonline.org. The site offers business reports of online companies, including a complaint history. The site also has tips for safe online shopping.

Before you place a bid. Re-search the seller and the auction company as thoroughly as possible. If you are not familiar with the company, request information about its business, including address and phone numbers, so you can contact it if necessary. Be sure you understand the auction company's disclosure, transaction and liability policies.

Most auctions last one to two weeks from opening to ending bid so you have plenty of time to research the piece of machinery you intend to buy. Know its book value and how much you are willing to spend before you place your first bid.

Chemicals department

Herbicide additives Improve the performance of postemergent herbicides with either of these new adjuvants. Both contain ammonium sulfate (AMS), which can provide a more uniform spray droplet that will cling better to the surface of weed leaves.

In a study conducted at Ohio State University, Array, manufactured by Intec, had a spray retention of 93%. Contact Intec, Dept. FIN, 700 S.W. 291 Hwy., Suite 204, Liberty, MO 64068, 877/818-4400.

AlliedSignal's Sulf-N-Forcer may be tankmixed with any postemergent herbicide that specifies AMS on the label, including Liberty on Liberty-Link corn and Synchrony on Synchrony-tolerant soybeans. Contact Allied Signal Inc., Dept. FIN, AMS Mrktg. Group, Box 1559, Hopewell, GA 23860, 800/446-4834.

Foam guidance RHS claims its new marking system, Outback Premium, is taking foam guidance to a new level. It's designed to run cooler for longer spraying intervals. You can change foam density from the cab. Model 10 delivers 10 gpm and withstands harsh wind and sun and high speeds. It has an average drop interval of 2.4 sec. Model 6 offers 6 gpm with an average drop interval of 4_1/2 sec. and works well under 12 mph. Prices: model 6, $1,800; model 10, $2,600. Contact RHS Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 394, Hiawatha, KS 66434, 800/247-3808.