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East-Central Louisiana: Conversations With Monsanto About Fees, Resistance; Cotton Stalk Destruction; Gearing Up For Planting

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WEATHER – More of the same. A little sunshine and then showers.

It will be at least ten days before we can get into some fields if it does not rain another drop. Lighter, well-drained soils can be entered in 5 – 7 days. for several days.

THANKS – To Monsanto for meeting in Lake Providence with a group of 40 or so farmers, consultants, and other interested parties. Consultants Hank Jones, Richard Costello, Jesse Young, and RC along with local farmers Terry Mize, Bertis Ray, and Chris Krahn were invited to attend.

Monsanto was prepared with tough hides since “they” are common fodder for many producers woes. Most farmers in attendance have been to one or more of these types of meetings before where Monsanto is searching for ways to help the end users of its technology manage risk. It was noted that Monsanto has helped somewhat in weed resistance management by rebating a small amount ($2.50/ac or so) for each of several herbicides if they are applied. However, it would require that a producer use all five herbicides on the list in order to get a total of $12.50/ac in return.

And there is no consideration for rates. Cotoran and diuron, for instance, must be used at the highest labeled rates for most of our soil types where cotton is grown in our area, yet the same amount of $ is allocated per acre regardless. The $2.50/ac rebate for Cotoran would be less than 20% of the cost of a efficacious rate of that herbicide for many of our acres. We appreciate the thought, but we need more bucks if Monsanto truly wants to help with resistance management in our area.

And there is no help for insect resistance management for bollworms that are “slipping” through Bollgard II cotton and must be treated with pyrethroids that are becoming less effective with each application. We were supposed to have enough control of bollworms with BGII to not have to treat for bollworms.

Jesse Young pointed out that the cap had been removed from the top end of what farmers would pay per acre for technology and that if farmers planted the recommended amount of seed (4 seed/row ft on 38” rows) tech and seed costs would be $133/acre. The reason the cap was removed is that few farmers were hitting the cap. The reason they didn’t “cap out” was that the cap was too high and should have been lowered to a total of $75/acre for seed and technology. Laugh if you want, Big M, but this is reality.

Monsanto explained that in order to continue research such as the drought resistant cotton on which they are currently working, it took X number of research dollars and that they could not lower the fees and still conduct the necessary research. Most in the audience agreed that drought tolerant cotton would not help, but actually hurt, the Mid-South and Southeast since it would be of more benefit to drier areas and encourage production there. In other words, it would help our area farmers’ competitors. Monsanto should not try to woo us with talk that “they” are only making these research investments for the American farmer…..it is for Monsanto’s shareholders and no one else.

The good thing: Monsanto took notes. And some of us were encouraged that perhaps they will begin to help us by sharing more of the risk, reducing some tech fees, and encouraging better stewardship of the technology by not selling “canned” packages of technology in areas where certain technology is not needed or wanted, such as areas where resistant pigweed have caused the value of Flex to become nil.  Yet the Bt traits may still be wanted and affordable.

Although the meeting was two hours long there was no “name calling” - at least none that we could hear. And we wondered what the four lost souls that were “sacrificed” and sent to make this trek had done wrong to deserve such punishment. Dave Rhylander is a veteran of such gatherings and has become used to wearing body armor. Phil Miller exhibited traits of being a Southern gentleman and appears sincere in his remarks. Regardless, the crowd left them unscathed, but hopefully more educated about what can be done to help us keep cotton in the United States.

We believe that Monsanto is listening. We thank “them” or “it” for aiding us with a contributions towards weed resistance management.  We hope that neither they nor us wasted our time. The fish was good, but it wasn’t enough to feed our families for a year nor enough to offset tech fees. And we don’t necessarily feel that a “tech rebate” check is in the mail yet, but we’re getting there.

BOLL WEEVIL ERADICATION – The Boll Weevil Eradication Commission recently had a conference call for the purpose of dismissing all cotton farmers from any liabilities from not shredding cotton stalks by the legal date.

The precedence that this has set will open up the Commission to much criticism from those who have been fined in the past for the very same infractions.

And may prevent the Commission from fining those who may violate rules and regs in the future. While it is true that wet weather may have played a pivotal role in preventing some farmers from “mudding out” their stalks, the ruling is an inconsideration for those who did ruin their fields with rutting because of the threat of a fine. Some ruined their fields because it was for the good of the program. Will the Commission be reimbursing for damages those farmers who did rut their fields while destroying stalks? Where is the cut-off point for deciding if it is too wet to shred or not? How deep must ruts be in order to qualify for exemptions? If a farmer cuts a 5” rut while shredding, can he/she stop shredding? A 4” rut, 3” rut, etc. Give us some guidelines.

There were 37 farmers in violation of the stalk destruct regulation this year. At the very least these farmers, for the benefit of both the good and the bad, should have appeared before the commission to explain their individual reasons for not meeting the deadline. And, probably many should have been granted leniency with no fine.

Several farmers were in the exact same position several years ago: late crop, picked in the mud, rutted fields filled with water late in the year. They tried disking in the ruts first so they could drive a tractor with a shredder over the field. As we all know, disking never destroys enough stalks to satisfy the stalk destruct rule. Yet, these producers not only were required to appear before the Commission, but were fined.

There is no place for a double standard in the Boll Weevil Eradication Program. Consistency in rules, regs, and violations should be of the most importance to the integrity of the program.

BURNDOWN – Still much burndown to be applied. Recommendations on what would work best now are changing as weather conditions, days until planting, and weed growth change. Give us a call if you need to discuss burndown.

Applicators and farmers should be aware of wheat fields in the area when applying burndown. One aerial applicator was applying glyphosate near a wheat field near here with the wind blowing directly towards the wheat. Hard to tell how much damage there will be since wheat has still not completely recovered from the recent cold and rain, but there will definitely be some yield reduction.

DRIFT LIABILITY - Recent rulings in court have indicated that not only the applicator, but the farmer and the landowner can be held liable for drift complaints. We think this will be tested if drift complaints continue on the same level as we have seen the past two years.

WHEAT – Nothing happening other than recovery from the bad weather. Some wheat looks great; some looks as if it has been treated with a sublethal dose of freeze, water, etc.

No disease issues at this time. Second dose of fertilizer completed. Glyphosate drift an issue on one farm.  Yield potential still there and price is improving.

COTTON – More talk of cotton given the recent price increases and due to yield concerns in soybeans affected by Cercospora and red-banded stinkbug infestations. Soybean farmers are also beginning to realize the true cost of producing soybeans is $100/acre higher than they expected.

It is still not too late to add Valor to burndown applications for cotton if the producer wants a residual.

We strongly encourage the use of diuron or Cotoran as a preemerge in cotton. And, of course, the use of Dual or Prowl as a residual for grass and pigweed control.

Do not plant cotton without Orthene on the seed. And a full compliment of fungicides. If nematodes are at moderate to low levels the use of a nematicide seed treatment may pay. If levels are high, the use of a nematicide application and/or a crop rotation program is warranted.

SOYBEANS – Some varieties in short supply as we had predicted. It just so happens those are the “most-wanted” varieties.

Farmers should get all of their seed tested. Now.

Seed treatments pay when planting early or when planting behind wheat or when planting in an area that historically has had an insect or disease issue even when planted in May. And there are many fields like this in Catahoula and Concordia. We have seen disease take out soybean stands in May when temps and weather were good. And we have seen three-cornered alfalfa hoppers and others insects cause severe problems in May planted soybeans. Therefore, we strongly encourage soybean farmers to utilize the full compliment of insecticides and fungicides. We steer away from recommending any nematicide at this time. We do not think it will be effective in returning the investment in most of our soybean fields.

CORN – Tractors idling with corn planters on the turnrow and ready to go.

Make certain burndown is out prior to planting. Herbicide choices are limited when applying burndown immediately in front of planting. Gramoxone figures into the equation where applications can be made by ground.

Even though burndown may be applied prior to planting corn farmers will have a yield reduction caused by dying plants if burndown is 3 weeks or sooner in front of planting.

RICE – We have heard of no rice being planted yet, but it would not surprise us to hear of some “crazy Cajun” planting some this week in south LA. Those are words from their own neighbors, not us.