It’s almost like the start of an agricultural joke: a farmer, a retailer and a chemical salesman walk into a bar. But this time, the three walked in as panelists during a recent media summit hosted by Syngenta. The biennial event provides an in-depth look at various aspects of the company’s and industry’s operations.
The panel for farmers, retailers and agents highlighted some of the issues all three will face in 2023.
Matt Moreland, the farmer on the jury, works at Moreland Farms, an Okahoma-based operation run in general partnership with his wife Lisa and their three sons James, Will and David. The farm grows corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton and operates an excavation and construction business and farms land in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Brad Ruden is Agronomy Tech Services Manager at Agtegra Cooperative. The cooperative was formed in 2018 following the merger of South Dakota Wheat Growers and North Central Farmers Elevator. Ruden has a diverse role at AgTegra, from supporting sales management and sales agronomy teams to conducting field research. The cooperative’s territory includes North and South Dakota and a portion of western Nebraska.
Jami Loecker is Agronomic Services Manager for Syngenta in the western Midwest and leads a team of agronomists in technical training and support for internal and external sales force for the crop protection portfolio. Their territory includes Minnesota, Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
Her comments during the presentation show that what many covered in 2022 remains a concern in 2023.
When asked what they have in mind for 2023? “It’s still the delivery issues,” Moreland said. “And the weather is tough. Most of our wheat went into dry, barren soil, but got enough rain to germinate. But it is not enough for a good harvest.”
Retailer Ruden noted that supply is also an issue on its side of the business, although it said AgTegra is better positioned this year than it has been in the past. “As a supplier, we must never run short. We have to supply our customers the way they ask for products,” he said.
As farmers plan for the 2023 season, Ruden said he’s seeing some hesitant to buy early. Most of the fertilizer sold by the Co-op is urea, and the Co-op will turn over that stock two to three times in a season. In a side call during the summit, he shared concerns about the ability to ship urea up the Mississippi with continued reduced water flows for that transportation pipeline.
Don’t give up weeds
During a discussion on crop protection, the topic of weeds came up. “We’re fighting the Palmers and we can’t let them show up,” Moreland said. “We stack leftovers.”
Moreland, who describes himself as a “one-pass guy,” said he’s looking at alternative approaches to keep the weed seed bank down.
For Ruden’s territory, he said, Kochia is the challenge. He also struggles with the concept of a one-pass approach. During a discussion of the nutrient loss caused by a 4-inch weed, it was mentioned that farmers who rely on an early post-one-pass system could harm their crop nutrition program and reduce yield.
Ruden noted that new genetic systems make this early post-pass possible. “I think we’re losing sight of the yield loss from weed control out there,” he said. “These programs don’t work the way we want them to.”
Loecker said overlapping crop protection technologies can make a difference, and the key is understanding what’s going on in each area. The core is the overlapping remainder program, which they say has been a major talking point in this area for some time.
“We want to work on how best to implement the tools that we currently have,” she said. “With the Syngenta portfolio we are able to achieve high economic returns and we can focus together with farmers on how best to do this.”
But how does the practice of overlapping residuals work? “They say you have to hear something seven times for it to sink in. Maybe we need to continue the conversation about overlapping residuals,” Loecker noted.
Adding university data and third-party information beyond Syngenta research that shows higher yields and returns can be helpful. Loecker also said it’s important to now identify the most critical challenges that need to be resolved on an individual farm. “If you don’t know what’s going on on a grower’s farm, you can’t effectively help solve that problem.”
And the standard panel question – What keeps you up at night? — brought these answers:
For Moreland, it’s working in the dryland environment he is in today, where property rents are in the $40 per acre range. And he sees drier conditions moving north. “We have to set up our farm to survive this, so we’re focusing more on irrigation,” he said. Land he has in Oklahoma has access to enough water for the future, and that’s one way he’ll work to keep his farm viable.
Controlling weeds is a constant challenge for male dogs. The fight against kochia and water hemp is a concern. But for 2023, the supply chain is an issue. “We’re not over the hill yet,” he said.
Loecker spoke about her passion for farming and the need to get the industry’s message across to people who have no experience of how modern farming works. “How can I do a better job myself and raise our voices to a level that is the effective, right language that is positive in our industry? It’s really personal,” she said.
The challenges for 2023, from supply chain issues to resistant weeds, ring like an echo of 2022. Keeping the farm going in the new year will be a test for farmers, retailers and the industry.