What are the issues in agriculture that we need to worry about?
Obviously the huge issue is cost of production relative to current commodity prices. I wish I could do something about that, but all I can do is try to provide some moral support.
Another issue is herbicide drift. Individuals who have had crops affected by herbicide applications intended for other crops or fields are concerned about the problem. However, I sometimes scratch my head at the apparent lack of concern by individuals or groups that I think would be concerned about the drift issues.
Our third meeting of the Glyphosate Drift Task Force is coming up in a few days. I anticipate that we will get down to some definitive recommendations at this meeting.
Regardless of what may come out of our task force in terms of recommendations for education and regulation, I will say again that much of the off-target problems we are having with glyphosate and 2,4-D will have to be solved at the grassroots level.
It will be interesting to see what sort of response we get from industry regarding glyphosate. It is a well-established fact that anything that affects surface tension can affect spray droplet size.
This was further established for glyphosate back in the days when the switch was made from Roundup D-Pak to Roundup Ultra. The issue at the time was drift to corn. It so happened that the switch was made at the same time that corn acreage increased dramatically.
Of course, there were a lot of different opinions on whether the sudden increase in complaints was due to the formulation change or simply due to the increase in corn acreage. Roundup D-Pak contained little or no surfactant; Roundup Ultra was a fully loaded product.
Several particle analysis studies conducted at the time showed that with a given nozzle and pressure setup, Roundup Ultra produced a higher number of fine particles than did Roundup D-Pak with Induce surfactant, which was popular at the time. This supported what a lot of applicators were saying at the time.
In more recent aerial application studies in Arkansas, Roundup WeatherMax, for example, has failed to pass the droplet size criteria established by the Arkansas State Plant Board to allow it to be tank-mixed with Command for application by aircraft.
It is also interesting that when you get around field representatives who have had a lot of experience with glyphosate, they will tell you in strict confidence that taking out or significantly reducing the surfactant load in some of the more popular formulations would significantly reduce the drift problem.
I am not alone in my feelings that a lot of factors are contributing to our off-target problems and formulation may well be one of them.
To date, the major manufacturers have taken the approach that these formulations are what they are going to sell and if there is a problem it is an applicator or farmer problem. Hopefully they will come around with better cooperation since we are going to ask for it.
However, if they do not, there may well be a golden opportunity for some of the smaller generic companies.
Industry in general needs to step up and determine what can be done with product formulations to give us the most efficacious glyphosate formulations with the most desirable spray droplet characteristics. Once that is established then the rest is up to farmers, applicators, educators and regulators.
I do not believe for a minute that formulation changes can solve all of the problems. However, nobody in industry has been willing to step up to demonstrate the current formulations are the best they can be.