By Brian Hefty
When the corn price bottomed out in the fall of 2005 at $1.30 per bushel in my area (eastern South Dakota), had I promised you $3+ corn and 200+ bushel yields in 2017, you would have jumped at the chance, right? Well, in 2017 most farmers got $3 or more for corn and many in my area had around 200 bushel yields, at least on some of their land, yet I don’t find a lot of farmers jumping for joy.
Since 2005, most crop protection products are down. Since yields and prices are dramatically higher than 2005 and chemical costs are down, that means return on investment with many products is actually pretty good. What I’m saying here is before you cut anything, make sure you aren’t cutting something that is making you money.
We will go through recommendations in detail during our Ag PhD Agronomy Workshops this winter, but today, I wanted to give you a few products that went up in price this year, along with a few that went down. The good news here is crop protection prices are down about 2% from last year, based on my analysis of approximately 1000 items.
HIGHER PRICES IN 2018:
- Freelexx. This one really makes me sad because we strongly encouraged all farmers to quit using old 2,4-D technology last year and switch to Freelexx. Freelexx is 2,4-D choline, and the reason why we love it is it has shown almost no volatility and lower drift risk. If you are spraying around your farmyard and don’t want to kill your flowers or drop leaves off your trees, Freelexx is great. Unfortunately, it is almost 20% higher in price than it was last year.
- Most off-patent items. Since China has introduced new environmental regulations, it has driven up the cost of many off-patent pesticides, as well as the raw materials that go into many crop protection products. Both the name brand and the generic products that contain the same active ingredients are affected in most cases. These products include Roundup, Gramoxone, Select, metribuzin, and many others. Fortunately, a lot of these things had come WAY down in price over the last few years, so they are still far less than they used to be.
LOWER PRICES IN 2018:
- Almost anything containing mesotrione (the active ingredient in Callisto). My concern here is that when you see how cheap these products are, you may want to overuse them. If HPPD herbicides aren’t used correctly as only PART of your herbicide program, you will likely have a carryover issue in next year’s crop, and we could all be facing HPPD-resistant weeds soon. Use HPPD products in corn, but use them with caution.
- Most fungicides are down in price from last year. Yes, many of these products are off-patent, but they hadn’t reached rock-bottom yet, which is why they are still going down. Also, products that don’t have generic competition yet, but likely will soon, have also come down. These include Headline and even Endura. As a wheat producer, I also love the fact that Prosaro, Caramba, and even the generic product similar to the old Folicur ($1.50 per acre!!!) are down in price, not to mention many wheat herbicides!
- Rebate programs are also lowering net prices for farmers in many situations. When you look at the extensive rebates FMC and BASF have, as well as Bayer, Monsanto, and others, it can make a huge difference in your cost per acre!
- Many dicamba products are down, including generics, DiFlexx, and even the new ones (on a net basis), including Engenia.
- Finally, some older products that may again have a fit on your farm include Pursuit and Basagran. Basagran is down in price, so for many crops, this is a big plus. With Pursuit, I like using a half rate in combination with other pre-emerge herbicides because even a low rate of Pursuit will help control nightshade, buckwheat, lambsquarters, mustard, and many other weed species.
As I alluded to earlier, you may be expecting all pesticide prices to be down since crop prices are well off their highs, but if you compare almost any crop protection product versus 2005 when crop prices were awful, the price of the pesticide is lower. Stay focused on ROI, and 2018 can be a good year.