I spent this past week in North Carolina visiting with leaders from six companies that develop and manufacture a good portion of the seed traits and crop protection products used today. During my visits, I shared data from our 8th annual No-Till Operational Benchmark Study that nearly 400 readers of No-Till Farmer provided through our 73-question No-Till Practices Survey.

Here are a few things that appear to be trending:

  • There’s a shift beginning to occur away from Roundup Ready technology, something that we saw beginning with the 2014 production season amongst no-tillers. This year, 80% of No-Till Farmer readers said they were going to use Roundup Ready corn vs. 85% in 2015. In soybeans, the decline went from 91% in 2015 to 85% this year.
  • Non-GMO seems to be the benefactor in corn having moved from 20% to 23% of readers this year. On the soybean side, both non-GMOs (2-point increase) and LibertyLink (3-point increase) took a bite out of Roundup Ready.
  • No-tillers seem to like the LibertyLink system in soybeans for cleaning up some tough-to-control weeds, but they have not embraced it in corn. One theory is farmers may not feel the yield performance of LibertyLink corn hybrids are up to par with Roundup Ready.
  • Farmers have taken some cost out of their crop protection system the past couple years, though overall as a group, they may not be able to take much more out. Fungicide and insecticide usage is down.
  • No-tillers apply more fungicide than the average farmer; however, the declining commodity prices are likely leading farmers to take more of a wait-and-see approach with fungicides rather than apply them for plant health considerations.
  • The same holds true for insecticides as fungicides. What is particularly puzzling, however, is a considerable decline amongst corn growers in insecticide use from 27% to 13% from 2014 to 2015. One might think that with reports of declining efficacy of the YieldGard trait that we might see an increase in the use of granular insecticides. Meanwhile, reports of Herculex issues dealing with western bean cutworm will need to be monitored.

Next week, I’ll look to share some observations and thoughts from leaders at Syngenta that came out of the company’s biannual Ag Media Summit, also held in North Carolina. But please feel free to share thoughts on what has been driving any crop protection or seed decisions on your farm.