'Classic'al Training

March 23, 2012 11:13 PM
'Classic'al Training

Commodity Classic provides a bounty of learning opportunities for attendees

The 17th annual Commodity Classic was one for the record books. More than 6,000 farmers, agribusiness officials, ag media and others descended upon Nashville to gain new insights from the rich assortment of learning opportunities—from the general session and dozens of
educational breakout sessions to the bustling trade show floor.

Several Farm Journal staff were on hand. Here’s just a sampling of what we saw at this event.

commodity classic logoWeed watch. Weed resistance remains one of the top obstacles that modern farming faces, and several agribusinesses have devoted major resources to either expanding or upgrading their arsenal against persistent weeds.

Monsanto announced that, pending regulatory approval, it plans to release soybean varieties that are tolerant to both dicamba and glyphosate herbicides. This technology, called Ready 2 Xtend, will be available as early as the 2014 growing season. Monsanto plans to pair this technology with Roundup Xtend, a new premix herbicide that includes both dicamba and glyphosate.

"Monsanto’s introduction of this new crop system will be another tool for a farmer’s weed control program, both for those dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds and those who are trying to minimize the risk of developing resistant weeds," says Johnny Dodson, a farmer from Tennessee. "Dicamba is a mode of action that has not been available to soybean producers as an in-crop herbicide. The Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System will give them additional choice to help grow high-quality, clean, high-yielding crops."

Dow AgroSciences unveiled Enlist Ahead, the newest component of its Enlist Weed Control System. Pending regulatory approval, this system will be offered for corn, soybeans and cotton to provide tolerance to Enlist Duo herbicide (a premix of 2,4-D and glyphosate). Company officials say they are looking at a comprehensive approach that takes education, tools, training and management recommendations into consideration.

"We are committed to the Enlist technology and to introducing new tools and resources to support its responsible use, as we are with all products and programs in our portfolio," says Jane Stautz, global product stewardship and sustainability leader for Dow AgroSciences.

BASF focused on eliminating early-season weeds, which can have a dramatic effect on final yields. The company says billions are lost each year to weeds competing with crops for sunlight, water and soil nutrients.

"If you miss weeds early, they get tougher to control, potentially requiring multiple applications and/or higher use rates for effective control," says Dan Westberg, technical market manager with BASF. He adds that BASF has developed several preemerge herbicide options, including Verdict herbicide for corn and new OpTill PRO herbicide for soybeans.

Fifty percent of growers surveyed by BASF report having dealt with resistant weeds in recent years. With 13 different species of glyphosate-resistant weeds now in 27 states—and with an increasing number of weeds that have stacked resistance to multiple sites of action—farmers are facing critical decisions in their weed management programs.

Make every drop count. Several companies showcased advances in developing crops that are more drought-tolerant and nitrogen-efficient.

Pioneer Hi-Bred released the 2011 on-farm trial results of its new Optimum AQUAmax corn hybrids, which maintain a higher rate of photosynthesis during drought stress and exhibit traits that lead to reduced seasonal water use. Among almost 700 trials conducted last year, Optimum AQUAmax hybrids showed an average 7.1% yield advantage over grower-selected checks within water-limited environments.

Jeff Schussler, Pioneer senior research manager, says he expects additional testing to show additional improvements. "There are many mechanisms that contribute to improved drought tolerance, and we’re confident we’re incorporating a broad base of native traits to deliver yield stability to our customers. As we further understand what improves drought tolerance, Pioneer corn breeders can develop even better corn hybrids for growers," he says.

Bayer CropScience is investing millions over the next several years to advance several next-generation traits to the market, says Mathias Kremer, head of Global BioScience. Improvements to biotic and abiotic stress tolerance will account for a large percentage of future yield grains for many major row crops, he says. Bayer has made multiple recent forays into seed production and now has a seed breeding presence in rice, canola, cotton, soybean and wheat.

Touch of a button. Farm technology is more closely mirroring consumer technology. For example, the new multitouch screens now offered by various precision ag companies would look right at home in a Best Buy, never mind your combine cab.

Precision ag companies consider these new technologies as must-haves to stay competitive. As Harlan Little, business manager for Leica Geosystems, quips, "If we didn’t have a touch screen, we wouldn’t be in the game." Most of Leica’s 2012 mojoMINI upgrades include improved display,
usability and compatibility.

The next goal is to take precision technology out of a single vehicle and connect it to your entire farming fleet. Trimble, for example, just launched its Vehicle Sync technology, which allows two vehicles operating in the same field to wirelessly share guidance lines, coverage maps and other vital information. Vehicle Sync is the latest addition to Trimble’s Connected Farm software, which seeks to enable farmers with better decision making through a more integrated management of their farm.

Other companies, such as Case IH, are using remote management, or "telematics," as a means to make farming more connected. Using Case IH’s AFS Connect software, farmers can review coverage area, machine hours, fuel use and other inputs from their personal tablet or computer.
"It is true two-way communications with any vehicle that’s equipped with AFS Connect, and remote access to that information," says Bill Preller, Case IH senior director of specialty business. "Anything that is reported on that vehicle is available through the communications link and software web portal to a remote access user."

Preller says AFS Connect offers around-the-clock service and support for monitors, guidance technology, receivers and section control. This helps farmers further minimize downtime when troubleshooting product performance issues.

What’s next? Terry Schiltz, president of AgSense, says that cloud-based computing and collaboration are two trends worth monitoring.

"Probably the biggest thing you’re going to hear going forward is everything is going to happen in the cloud," he says. "Or interconnectivity—I think you’re going to find more companies partnered together, collaborating and sending data to a single page, just to make it easier and more efficient for farmers to operate."

More on the 2012 Commodity Classic.

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