A recent survey found that 40% of growers struggle to control Palmer amaranth and waterhemp with current preemergence corn herbicides.1 These weeds aren’t just occasional problems. Year after year, they hurt corn yields, making it harder for growers to profit and do their jobs well.
Chris Munsterman, a Syngenta agronomy service representative based in York, Nebraska, sheds light on this long-standing issue. “Small grain weeds first showed resistance to acetolactate synthase (ALS) herbicides roughly 25 years ago,” he says. “Over time, our biggest concerns shifted toward the Amaranthus species, notably waterhemp and Palmer pigweed.”
Growers continually seek strategies to manage weed resistance. Storen™ corn herbicide, developed by Syngenta, is specifically designed with these challenges in mind. Storen targets problematic weeds like Palmer amaranth and waterhemp, offering growers a solution to combat the resistance problems they’ve battled for years. Its combination of four residual active ingredients keeps rows clean up to three weeks longer than other leading herbicides.2
“The extended control from Storen gives growers a better chance to reapply their overlapping residual herbicides,” Munsterman says. “With many farms expanding and consolidating, there are growers and retailers who manage fields up to 40 miles from their home base. Getting back to those fields in time for a reapplication isn’t always easy. Storen could be the helping hand they need. As farming evolves, having that extra time can make all the difference.”
The introduction of Storen to the corn herbicide market signifies a strategic step against persistent resistant weeds. Its specialized formulation, with ingredients like bicyclopyrone, mesotrione, S-metolachlor and pyroxasulfone plus the crop safener benoxacor, makes Storen a top contender in weed management. Beyond handling barnyardgrass and foxtail species, its proven effectiveness against challenging amaranthus species like waterhemp and Palmer pigweed reinforces its value in today’s agronomic practices.
1 Storen length-of-control advantage based on 2022 Syngenta and university-replicated trials comparing Storen to Resicore® and TriVolt®.
2 Syngenta market research, 2022. n=302.
When it comes to crop protection, making the best choices is tough — especially when every cent counts. Bundle programs that add crop protection products to seed purchases are tempting, but these deals limit input options throughout the season and prevent growers from choosing the best solutions for their unique challenges. With slim profit margins in mind, it is more important than ever to prioritize the right inputs over initial savings.
Successful growers consider crop protection to be an investment, rather than a negotiable expense. Disease, stress and pest pressure decrease yield potential from the moment planting begins. Combining the highest quality solutions for challenges on individual operations with sound agronomic practices is the best way to protect yield potential.
The Better Yield is the Better Deal™ platform from Syngenta offers a wide variety of industry-leading products designed to help growers maximize their yields and return-on-investment potential. The platform provides growers with the flexibility to choose the best products for their fields.
Maximizing yields from every acre is the best way to achieve the greatest return on investment. Adopting the Better Yield is the Better Deal mindset and prioritizing investing in quality inputs helps growers set up their crops for immediate success and their operations for long-term gains.
In many cases, selecting the best products based on individual farm fit and unique challenges means choosing a complementary product pair. For soybeans, Syngenta recommends Tendovo® herbicide followed by Miravis® Neo fungicide for maximum yield protection. This combination outyielded the competition by 12.2 bushels per acre1 in a replicated Nebraska trial. This equates to a nearly $16,000* increase in profit potential for every 100 acres.
Growers can’t save their way to a higher return on investment. Focusing on making the best investments results in better, more consistent outcomes. When planning for the growing season, farmers should remember that Better Yield is the Better Deal.
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1 Syngenta Trial 2021 ― H080SMAD-2021US ― NE (1). Use rates: Tendovo 1.75 qt/A followed by Sequence® 3 pt/A + Flexstar® 1 pt/A and Fusilade® DX 6 fl. oz/A. Miravis Neo 13.7 fl. oz/A and Endigo® ZCX 3.5 fl. oz/A.
*Revenue calculations based on soybean commodity price of $13/bu. Potential revenue in dollars for every 100 acres applied = yield advantage per product combination x $13 soybean commodity price x 100 acres. Calculations are not a guarantee of similar results.
Historically, the ag industry is a primary driver of technological innovation. From the earliest days of irrigation in ancient Mesopotamia to today’s drones and near-infrared imagery, the need to feed people puts agriculture firmly in the driver’s seat of technological advancement.
Often, the most successful farmers are those who are early adopters of cutting-edge technology. Forward-thinking growers recognize the value of technology to not only stay in business but thrive as they do it.
Digital Ag in Action
Meade McDonald has been with Syngenta for 19 years and currently serves as the company’s digital ag solutions marketing manager for the U.S. His team is responsible for helping growers and retailers implement digital tools on the farm.
When engaging with retailers and growers regarding the Cropwise portfolio, McDonald and his team focus on answering three fundamental questions:
- What specific agronomic or risk-based challenge are you faced with on your farm?
- Does Syngenta have a solution for that in its crop protection portfolio?
- How can we better solve that problem with a digitally enabled tool or service?
To establish trust and credibility, McDonald says the digital ag team must be well-versed in the issues growers deal with on the farm. Supplying fancy algorithms simply isn’t enough. The digital team needs to understand how drought affects a Texas cotton crop; when the weather is conducive for treating potato late blight in Idaho; or what economic conditions contribute to growing and marketing soybeans successfully in McLean County, Illinois, or Tippecanoe County, Indiana.
“We’re doing a good job when we can engage in conversations with growers about the challenges they face in the markets or agronomically and be relevant in those conversations,” McDonald says.
When engaging with retailers and growers regarding the Cropwise portfolio, McDonald and his team focus on answering three fundamental questions: What specific agronomic or risk-based challenge are you faced with on your farm? Does Syngenta have a solution for that in its crop protection portfolio? How can we better solve that problem with a digitally enabled tool or service?
Meade McDonald Digital Ag Solutions Marketing Manager at Syngenta
Which Data Matters?
The first question many growers ask is which data is important for their operation. What numbers need to be collected and analyzed? What data matters to the software? The short answer is all of it. Many digital solutions on the market today offer detailed insights into just about any data growers can dig up and upload to their phone or desktop computer.
But the answer — “all of it” — can feel more than a little daunting. That, McDonald says, is precisely why he and his team start every conversation with a question about what the most pressing needs or challenges on that grower’s operation are.
“Not every farm faces the same challenges,” he says. “It could be weed resistance. It could be managing foliar diseases in corn. It could be the risk of inclement weather or the risk of declining corn or soybean prices. Our Cropwise tools are built to solve grower problems, but we must know what problems are most pressing for them.”
The goal of digital ag solutions is simplifying all the data a grower can collect into actionable information. Tools like those in the Cropwise digital portfolio from Syngenta enable growers to apply whole-farm decision-making more easily to their businesses. Satellite imagery can provide high-level scouting over even the largest operations. Growers can scout fields using a smartphone to record observations of plant stress, growth stage and insects on the ground and know exactly which fields to treat or check on later. Efforts to improve environmental sustainability on the farm can be recorded and recalled. Financial programs provide the ability to map fields, track inventory of fertilizer or crop protection products, and measure profitability acre by acre.
“Those tools are helping growers tackle agronomic and risk-based challenges,” McDonald says. “It’s about linking our crop protection portfolio with our Cropwise portfolio to better solve the challenges growers are facing.”
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A Challenge and Opportunity
Of course, today’s solutions may not be relevant tomorrow, particularly in the realm of digital solutions. Just imagine digging a decade-old iPhone out of the junk drawer and trying to activate it. Odds are, it would be so obsolete that you couldn’t use it. But while some things may maintain their relevance for a good long while, digital software is constantly changing and evolving with new features and capabilities.
“We constantly have to update our digital tools to make them faster and more intuitive,” McDonald says. “The incredible rate of change in the digital space is both a challenge and an opportunity.”
If history is any indication, more and more growers will continue to adopt these technologies. Finding good labor will likely continue to be one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, and digital tools such as the Cropwise platform can improve growers’ efficiency, effectiveness and decision-making.
“Looking forward, we see the average farm getting bigger,” McDonald says. “We see the largest farms in the country adopting digital tools and technology the fastest, as they have the most to gain from digital adoption on the farm.”
So, whether you’re growing sugarbeets in Minnesota, peanuts in Georgia, citrus in California or corn and soybeans in the Midwest, take heed: American agriculture is on the digital train, and you’re welcome to climb aboard.
Many factors motivate farmers to achieve higher yields. Some growers want to fulfill their family’s legacy, while others aspire to stay profitable and reap the benefits of their hard work. But sometimes, good old-fashioned friendly competition is the incentive farmers need to produce higher-yielding soybeans.
Each year, the North Carolina Soybean Yield Contest gives participating growers the drive to earn top-producer bragging rights. It also provides fascinating data that can enable all soybean growers to boost their crops’ productivity.
Rachel Vann, Ph.D., assistant professor and soybean Extension specialist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at North Carolina State University (NCSU), is one of the researchers gathering essential intel on soybean yield and a contest administrator. “Since we collect so much management information through the contest, we are able to identify trends that will benefit all growers,” she says.
Joining Vann as a longtime contest administrator is Jim Dunphy, Ph.D., retired Extension soybean expert and professor emeritus of soybean production & management at NCSU. This annual endeavor is a group effort with North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agents measuring yield contest entries at the local level and the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association (NCSPA) providing prizes for the winners.
Any grower in North Carolina with three or more contiguous acres of soybeans is eligible to enter the contest. There are several prize categories, and cash winnings range from $100 for a regional yield award to $1,000 for the top state champion.
When entering the contest, growers are asked to provide their production practices associated with the entered acres, which is the data Vann and her team use to help determine what best practices provide the highest yields.
The idea of using producer-derived data to leverage something already going on provides a broader educational value. Almost as valuable as seeing what works is understanding what doesn’t when it comes to strongly predicting high yield. By focusing on the most important variables, we can take a deeper dive into what truly impacts yields.
Rachel Vann, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Soybean Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University
High Yield Predictors
Maximizing the value of contest data is an ongoing goal for Vann. “When I came to this position five years ago, we had a large database of information for reference,” she says. “But there had not been any effort to dive into that database to get what educational value could be gleaned for the broader grower base.”
Vann and her colleague, Katherine Drake-Stowe, now the director of the U.S. Soybean Research Collaborative, decided to undertake this challenge by reviewing 18 years of yield contest data from 877 entries.
“We wanted to identify those production practices that were strong and consistent predictors of high yield in North Carolina soybeans,” Vann says. “We looked at 12 to 15 management practices and conducted a statistical analysis to determine which practices had the strongest impact on yield.”
The most impactful practices noted in her team’s report are as follows:
- Maturity group. The contest data shows that planting an earlier-maturing variety (<MG5), especially in high-yielding environments, increases soybean yields. However, Vann advises against taking a blanket approach when selecting maturity groups because of North Carolina’s rotational complexity, soil type variability and inconsistent annual weather patterns, which oftentimes necessitate growers selecting a wide range of maturity groups. Nonetheless, using earlier maturing varieties optimizes yield in situations with optimal production capacity and limited stress.
- Foliar fungicides. The data clearly shows that the use of foliar fungicides can increase soybean yields because they reduce yield loss from diseases. At the beginning of the period in this analysis (around 2002) there was very little use of fungicides to control foliar disease in North Carolina soybean production. This information shows that foliar diseases need to be aggressively managed to prevent yield loss in North Carolina, and that can be done through selecting resistant varieties, scouting for foliar diseases and rotating fungicides with different chemical modes of action.
- Planting date. While the exact timing varies by region across the state, the contest data shows that earlier planting dates consistently increase soybean yields. “Our data verifies that planting earlier, before mid-May, is an important practice, particularly in high-yielding situations,” Vann says.
- Herbicide use. The data also shows that more frequent herbicide applications resulted in higher soybean yields. The report adds that a robust, “multifaceted approach to chemical weed management is often necessary to protect soybean yield.”
Vann states that while some production practices won’t be relevant to every farmer across the country, the data collection and subsequent evaluation may be something all can contemplate.
“The idea of using producer-derived data to leverage something already going on provides a broader educational value,” she says. “Almost as valuable as seeing what works is understanding what doesn’t when it comes to strongly predicting high yield. By focusing on the most important variables, we can take a deeper dive into what truly impacts yields.”
Additional Resources for Achieving High Yields
Find out how increasing yields with the right crop protection input can maximize your return on investment — whether you grow corn, soybeans or both.
- Research partnerships test new chemistries at the University of Arizona.
- Ag education is an inroad to a robust industry network.
- Endowment funding supports students’ career goals.
Impactful innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and partnerships between industry and academia lead to big advances. That’s why Syngenta collaborates with universities to trial its new chemistries, study existing chemistries, talk with growers at field days, and, of course, hire excellent students produced by top ag universities.
Great Chemistry Together
John C. Palumbo, Ph.D., extension entomologist at the University of Arizona, has partnered with Syngenta for decades. “I have always looked at new chemistry for Syngenta, and I have been fortunate that they are always bringing new products along the way,” Palumbo says. “They completely support my research, they share their expertise, information, and provide as much as they can in the compounds, formulations and rates. I always feel in-the-know,” he says.
That partnership helped Syngenta with its development of products having new modes of action, such as the coming-soon PLINAZOLIN® technology, currently under registration review by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). For more than six years, Palumbo worked with the Syngenta team, including Elijah Meck, Ph.D., technical product lead at Syngenta, to help develop this technology.
“It will be a new mode of action in the foliar space that will control many different insects and mites and will help manage resistance,” Meck says.
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Meck writes trial protocols and works with local Syngenta R&D scientists who send the protocols to university partners to begin research — but that’s only the beginning. The trials rigorously test chemistries for the safety and efficacy of crops. “I will visit trial sites to get perspective on how our products are performing,” Meck says. “I ask a lot of questions: Did they observe anything new or unusual? How is the product performing in their view? How might it fit in the marketplace with other available products?”
Meck says partnerships between industry and universities also benefit growers in terms of the insights they gain about practical successes and challenges. “We want good relationships with universities and extension services and want their honesty about what our products can and can’t do. Growers are better served when they understand all these things.”
I have always looked at new chemistry for Syngenta, and I have been fortunate that they are always bringing new products along the way. They completely support my research, they share their expertise, information, and provide as much as they can in the compounds, formulations and rates. I always feel in-the-know.
John C. Palumbo, Ph.D. Extension Entomologist, University of Arizona
Aaron Hager, Ph.D., extension weed scientist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, dedicates his time to helping farmers manage weeds, examining herbicide application programs in the field and advising masters- and Ph.D.-level students. He has professional relationships with some Syngenta employees dating from when they were in college together. In 2009, he received a question from one of them about a photo of a waterhemp plant uninjured from a postemergence herbicide. “I ended up visiting the field with Syngenta and agreed there was something going on there,” Hager says. “This became the first instance in the world of confirmed resistance to HPPD inhibitors. When UI weed scientists brought our data to Syngenta, they funded our work with the largest single grant in the history of the University of Illinois weed science program.”
Hager says the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been turning students into weed science professionals since the 1950s. His and his peers’ goal is to provide a well-rounded experience for students, preparing them for their future roles in the ag industry.
Seth Strom is a Syngenta field R&D scientist in Monticello, Illinois. Hager was Strom’s Ph.D. advisor and, along with his co-advisors, is who Strom credits with molding him into a well-rounded weed scientist. Strom’s dissertation was a collaborative project with Syngenta, but working in field trials sponsored by different agricultural companies gave him a broad view of the weed science world. Strom also met different people and saw their various scientific approaches at the professional meetings Hager encouraged him to attend. “I’m still applying that knowledge to my current role as a field rep,” Strom says. “That base was really helpful, and accepting a position with Syngenta was like going home for me.”
Syngenta agronomy service representative Kevin Scholl earned both a bachelor’s degree in ag business and a master’s degree in crop science/agronomy from the University of Illinois. Now Scholl uses information from university extension to guide his customers’ decisions about herbicide selection, application and weed resistance management. “They’re a really valuable resource for the state and our customers,” Scholl says.
Syngenta finds another opportunity for university collaboration through funding endowments such as the Janis McFarland CERSA Internship Endowment at North Carolina State University. The endowment supports undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), helping them gain real-world internship experience in the crop science regulatory field.
There’s no shortage of partnership opportunities, and no limit on how they impact future agricultural innovations.
Since early 2021, there have been rumbles of enthusiasm and frustration about soybean oil prices right beneath the surface. Soybean growers and processors have been thrilled about record-high prices, but end-users of soybean oil, especially bakers, have had a significant case of sticker shock. What, exactly, has been going on?
Soybean Oil Prices Surge Higher
Soybeans are a bit unique in that they are a component crop. This means the economic value of growing a bushel of soybeans is derived from the value of the crop’s two primary outputs from the crushing process: meal and oil. Historically, Missouri soybean oil prices hit a high of $0.55 per pound between 2011 and 2012 (Figure 1). After those highs, prices fell to around $0.30 per pound for several years. In 2021, however, prices surpassed historic records. They abruptly jumped briefly above $0.80 per pound and spent most of the year above $0.60. For the entire year, the average weekly price was $0.65 per pound. In other words, the average price for all of 2021 was higher than any single weekly observation since 2010.
For the first five months of 2022, soybean oil prices have been even higher, averaging $0.77 per pound and twice exceeding $0.90 per pound. All else the same, higher soybean oil prices make it attractive for soybean processors to buy and crush soybeans. However, the value of soybean meal and the price of soybeans is also important.
Since 2021, soybean oil has accounted for roughly half of the total value of crushing a bushel of soybeans. This is significant as soybean oil typically accounts for just 25% to 35% of the total economic value. The implication is that the decision to crush soybean — or to build a new crush plant — is heavily influenced by high soybean oil prices.
A Trend Years in the Making
The USDA provides usage data for soybean oil, including the three primary uses (Figure 2). The largest category of soybean oil usage is the “food, feed, and other industrial uses” category. Over the last 12 years, this category has consistently accounted for 14 billion pounds of soybean oil usage. The smallest category of usage is exports. For 2022-2023, soybean oil exports are estimated at 1.4 billion pounds — the lowest levels in more than a decade.
Early in the 2010s, biofuel accounted for roughly 5 billion pounds of soybean oil usage. Since 2014-2015, however, biofuel usage has more than doubled to 12 billion pounds in 2022-2023. More specifically, over the last eight years, usage of biofuel increased at an average annual rate of 10%. For context, the Rule of 72 reminds us that a 10% growth rate results in a doubling every seven years. Overall, this is a pretty aggressive growth rate, especially considering it’s the only growth category within soybean oil.
Looking ahead, one has to wonder if, or when, biofuel might surpass the food, feed, and other industrial uses category.
Wrapping it Up
While the debate around high soybean oil prices came to the forefront in 2021, the increased biofuel usage trend has been underway for several years. In many ways, the current situation feels a lot like the “food versus fuel” debate that corn and ethanol faced around 2010. This time around, however, a better descriptor might be “doughnuts versus diesel.”
Beyond the data, one doesn’t have to go very far to hear about plans to construct a new soybean crush facility. With soybean oil prices maintaining record-high levels, the situation will undoubtedly incentivize the expansion of production. At the farm level, this demand will likely translate into even more soybean acres. All that said, the price of soybeans and the value of soybean meal will also affect the feasibility of widespread sector expansion. At some point, the industry might be searching for answers on how to utilize all the soybean meal created.
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Widmar and Gloy are the co-founders of Ag Economic Insights (AEI.ag). Founded in 2014, AEI.ag helps improve decision making for producers, lenders, and agribusiness through: the free Weekly Insights blog, the award-winning AEI.ag Presents podcast- featuring Escaping 1980 and Corn Saves America, and the AEI Premium platform, which includes the Ag Forecast Network decision tool. Visit AEI.ag or email Widmar(firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more. Stay curious.
Agriculture is dominated by trends with small annual changes that play out over several years or decades. There are many examples of this, from yields to producer consolidation, but the trend that’s perhaps easiest to overlook is global acreage.
The adjacent graph shows global harvested acres since 1960. In 2021, world acres were 2.4 billion acres, up 63 million acres since 2016. For context, the U.S. harvested 85.4 million acres of corn in 2021. While 63 million is a small increase compared to the 2.4 billion total, it’s about three-quarters of the area of the U.S. corn crop.
This isn’t the first time global acreage has expanded. In the 1970s, acreage increased by 269 million acres. North America was a significant source of that expansion, contributing 74 million — or 28% — of the total increase. Global acreage again expanded in the 2000s and early 2010s due to demand from ethanol production and soybean trade. That expansion totaled 280 million acres, with South America and sub-Saharan Africa leading the increase at 73 million additional acres each.
Another important takeaway from Figure 1 is that those acres largely remain in production once the expansion occurs. In other words, sizeable global acreage contractions don’t happen, even when ending stocks are high and commodity prices are low. Even throughout the Farm Financial Crisis of the 1980s — when the U.S. government was trying to limit the pains of oversupply through programs such as Payment-in-Kind and Conservation Reserve Program — the overall global acreage trend was sideways.
Oilseeds in the Driver’s Seat
When the global acreage factory expands, it doesn’t do so uniformly across all crops. Of the 63 million acres added in recent years, a staggering 73% of those new acres have gone to oilseeds. While soybeans account for most oilseed gains (+25 million acres), all oilseeds — including peanuts, rapeseed and sunflowers — have increased.
Corn acreage has also trended higher but only gained 15 million additional acres. Across the other primary crops, cotton, rice and wheat posted small expansions, but acres of millet, oats, rye and sorghum were unchanged or lower.
Where the Increases Occurred
In addition to being concentrated by crops, oilseed acreage gains have also occurred in just a few regions and countries. For example, Brazil alone accounted for 44% of the increase between 2016 and 2021. Outside of South America, South Asia — mainly India— and the former Soviet Union region also have been a significant source of expansion.
Russian acreage increased by 8 million since 2016, and Ukraine added another 4.4 million. While many have recently noted these two countries are a significant source of global corn and wheat exports, they’ve also been a source of acreage expansions. The region’s largest crop is wheat — which increased by 4.2 million acres since 2016 — but oilseeds have again dominated the expansion, gaining 11 million additional acres. The crop with the most significant acreage gains within the region was sunflowers, up 6.6 million acres.
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Wrapping it Up
There are several reasons these data can be challenging to follow. First, the year-to-year changes, or variations, can be noisy due to weather-related issues. It often takes several years to establish a trend. Second, world acreage has increased by nearly 800 million acres since 1960, or a 47% increase, but the trend has played out over six decades. On average, this is equal to a lackluster 0.6% annual rate of increase. Third, the global factory expansion cycles between years of slow expansion and stretches of very little change. Taken together, one could monitor these data for several years before observing any significant changes. However, when financial conditions are strong, we can expect global acreage to increase.
Looking ahead, keep in mind the acreage expansion has been underway for at least two years. For example, South America and the former Soviet Union regions began to increase acreage during the trade war. It’s unclear how long the current expansion will last, but a significant element of the “cure for high prices” is already underway. The expansion will eventually begin to ease the current supply concerns.
Widmar and Gloy are the co-founders of Ag Economic Insights (AEI.ag). Founded in 2014, AEI.ag helps improve decision making for producers, lenders, and agribusiness through: the free Weekly Insights blog, the award-winning AEI.ag Presents podcast- featuring Escaping 1980 and Corn Saves America, and the AEI Premium platform, which includes the Ag Forecast Network decision tool. Visit AEI.ag or email Widmar(email@example.com) to learn more. Stay curious