Older Chemistry Offers New Solutions
If your perception of the crop protection company MANA is that it’s a small generic product supplier, think again. In 2012, MANA’s parent company, Makhteshim Agan, was the global leader of post-patent crop-protection companies and ranked seventh among global agrichemical firms, with more than $2.69 billion in annual revenue. The company has forged its global business by purchasing off-patent active ingredients and marketing them to farmers and retailers.
In the U.S., MANA offers farmers more than 60 insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, plant growth regulators and harvest aids, according to Dave Downing, MANA brand leader. "We take older chemistry and put it together in a unique and proprietary way to provide solutions for the marketplace," Downing says.
Basically, that means MANA reformulates and repackages older products to improve their performance, handling characteristics and environmental sustainability. For example, the new KlearSky Technology product lineup uses conventional active ingredients but lowers volatile organic compounds. This enhances the handler experience through lower odor, fewer personal protective equipment requirements and/or reduced signal word.
This year, farmers have access to several new KlearSky products, including Bumper ES fungicide (propiconazole) for broad-spectrum control of foliar fungal diseases in corn, soybeans, rice and cereal crops; Fanfare ES insecticide, an advanced-generation pyrethroid, for use in corn and soybeans; and Vulcan insecticide, a chlorpyrifos formulation for use in corn, soybeans and wheat.
MANA is also introducing new soybean weed control tools to address herbicide resistance. Torment includes two active ingredients, fomesafen and imazethapyr, for pre-emergence and postemergence control of 65 species of grass and broadleaf weeds. The herbicide is designed for use in the Midwest, Downing says, and is a good fit for grass and broadleaf resistance issues related to glyphosate and HPPD/triazine inhibitor chemistry.
MANA is introducing 10 products for 2013 and expects to introduce two or three new products each year moving forward, Downing says. The company field trials its products with universities and cooperators, spending several million dollars annually in testing brands.
Consistent Yield Growth Takes Time
As farmers work to boost corn yields to 300 bu. per acre, a new report by Rabobank International Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory (FAR) group says to expect a short-term setback in the quest to reach that goal. The report, "Crowding the Fields" says it is likely farmers will see one to two years of stagnant plant population growth due to high input costs and dry soils.
"Corn yield growth in the U.S. is reaching a key milestone as the trend of increasing plant population per acre is challenged by limitations of the current production processes," notes Sterling Liddell, vice president for FAR. "We know the confines of current equipment and production techniques will eventually challenge the ability of U.S. farmers to sustain historic yield growth trends."
The report finds the key areas where future problems with dense plant populations include: a lack of adequate precision in planting equipment; fertilization practices, which can encourage nonuniform plant growth; and insufficient spacing for root systems to develop. Each of these factors alone presents serious challenges to long-term growth in the corn yield curve.
Together, the report contends that these obstacles are capable of severely restricting yield-growth potential for the long term.
"Changes in production methods take place gradually," Liddell says. "As these changes are being implemented, growers continue to be keenly aware of increasing input costs and land values, making each decision more and more critical to maintaining a profitable operation."