By Shaun Haney
RealAgriculture.com has been at several plot tours and company meetings this summer and there is a definite common theme of product development trending amongst the life science companies. It appears that in the near term the agronomic innovation will be derived in the areas of seed enhancement and fungicides instead of herbicides.
The industry has done a great job of helping farmers control the majority of the weeds in farmer’s fields. The life science companies are focusing now on improving the health of the plant. Two critical ways to improve plant health are to protect the plant and seed which enables the plant to achieve it s optimal yield and performance. Seedling and leaf diseases are major factors in plant health. Just like humans, a healthy body means a healthy mind and realistically plants are no different. Data shows that humans that exercise and stay healthy are more productive in their daily lives whether it be work or family life.
Personally I believe that this is a great shift in product development for the crop protection industry. The industry is moving the focus from “killing weeds” to “protecting” and “enhancing” the plant through the growth stages. The results of this may even lead to less herbicide use due to increased plant competition and increased biological protection from pests. Obviously there is market demand and money to be made from this product development shift but the overall the benefit will be found on the farm as well.
Every single crop tour I was at this summer you could hear the phrases, “our new seed treatment and fungicide portfolio is going to make a real difference for farmers.” In cereals, he days of Vitavax Single being the only SKU in the marketplace are long over. If I think about our own seed farm we used to treat one product on cereals and now we have a menu of five different options for customers. I expect in the next five years that menu may have ten options on it. I have also been hearing a great deal of reference to Europe and how they use fungicides to manage plant health at a must higher usage rate than Canadian farmers are used to.
When farmers have options it allows for better product fit to the their situation. That is a benefit. The challenge will be for farmers and retailers to try and understand what all of these new seed treatment and fungicides do and where they are the best fit. This trend seems to be apparent across all crop types in the North American marketplace. Whether it be corn, soybeans, canola, wheat, or barley farmers are about to see a strong industry portfolio of innovative seed treatments and fungicides on their farm.