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Jan. 28, 2022
By Ryan McGeeneyU of A System Division of Agriculture
(982 words)(Newsrooms: With additional art at https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzywHW)
HAZEN, Ark. — When it comes to preparing for the 2022 growing season, Tommy Butts,
extension weed scientist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,
doesn’t mince words.
“I have less than zero good news, as far as weeds go,” Butts recently told those in
attendance at a winter production meeting in Hazen, Arkansas. “This is a year to survive.”
Weeds have long been a challenge in row crop agriculture, threatening everything from
degraded crop quality to significant loss of yield. And while herbicide technology
has improved over the decades, the tendency of weeds to develop resistance has gradually
imperiled that technology’s effectiveness.
In 2022, however, growers will also face a disrupted supply chain and a throttled
availability of many of the herbicide technologies they’ve come to rely on. Between
natural disasters that have destroyed some production facilities, shipping crisis
and labor shortages caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a plastics shortage and
China’s move to reduce overall production to ameliorate air pollution ahead of the
2022 Summer Olympic Games, growers in Arkansas and elsewhere are faced with both limited
availability and skyrocketing prices for herbicides and more.
Butts said the situation may lead growers to make one of two bad decisions.
“I have two primary concerns for this year,” he said. “One is the high prices of some
of our primary herbicides, like glyphosate and glufosinate. Those two are potentially
in short supply, as well as atrazine for corn and some others.
“So one of two things is going to happen,” he said. “Guys are either going to have
to spend through the roof to get good weed control, and just be unprofitable for the
year, or, in the second scenario, guys just cut back.
“If we do that, more than likely, we’re going to have weed escapes, which then may
or may not affect your yield this year, but you’re for sure going to replenish the
weed seed bank, setting us up for future problems.”
Diesel prices on the riseLike fertilizer, which has risen 200-300 percent over the last year, herbicides such
as glyphosate and glufosinate have also risen as much as 300 percent, costing as much
as $53 and $120 a gallon, respectively.
Scott Stiles, extension economist for the Division of Agriculture, said herbicide
prices were among the many input costs growers will grapple with this year.
“Diesel prices have moved sharply higher since Dec. 1,” Stiles said. “Diesel is up
75 cents a gallon over the past two months and is at the highest levels since September
2014. Farm diesel prices are around $3.05 to $3.10 a gallon today — compared to the
$2.60 a gallon we used in the crop budgets back in late November. That level of increase
has added $20 an acre to our rice variable costs, $10 an acre to soybeans and $11
to $13 an acre for corn and cotton, depending on irrigation method.”
Some give and takeStiles said there is some “give and take” in other input costs, hinting at the slightest
ray of sunshine.
“Some fertilizer prices have weakened over the past month,” he said. “although potash
prices have remained fairly flat in recent weeks.”
Stiles said prices for urea and di-ammonium phosphate coming through the Port of New
Orleans have fallen about 28 percent and 5 percent, respectively, since mid-November.
“Changes in Gulf prices doesn't always translate to the local retail level, but we
hear from growers that Urea is now being offered at prices below the highs seen in
late 2021,” he said. “It's encouraging to see, but too early to say if it's the start
of a continual trend lower. Historically, we see a firmer price trend in all fertilizer
prices from January to March. An extended price decline will generally start sometime
in April and extend into late summer.”
Putting the game plan togetherJim Dickson, an agricultural consultant who attended the Hazen production meeting,
said he plans to sit down with his clients and study where input costs can be cut,
primarily through reducing fertilizer.
“The price has basically doubled what it was last year,” Dickson said. “We take a
lot of soil samples every year, so I think we’re ahead of the curve there.”
Earl Hart, who primarily produces cattle and wheat on about 600 acres of land in northern
Lonoke County, said rising input costs have likely steered him away from a planned
expansion into row crops.
“I’ve planted wheat over the last several years, and mainly use it for stock grazing,”
Hart said. “I just bought a farm with a lot of crop base on it, and I don’t know which
way I’m going to go on it, but after this production meeting, I’m leaning toward irrigated
hay. My inputs kick my tail, just like the row crops farmers’ do.
“I farm to make money,” he said.
Butts said that if popular herbicides do prove to be too expensive or too difficult
to acquire, growers should fall back on the basics of good weed control and crop management.
“Weed control is going to take some really specific, precise management this year,”
Butts said. “The easiest way to sum it up is to do the little things — they will add
up at the end of the year.
“Some of those little things include prioritizing our burndown to make sure we start
clean, so we don’t have weeds already going when we plant and our crop is trying to
emerge,” he said. “Use pre-emergence residual herbicides, because we haven’t seen
as big an issue there with supply, so far. The prices haven’t gone through the roof
to the same degree.
“So if we can use those and overlap them, one, we get more consistent weed control,
because the residuals are just more consistent, but then we can also save a little
money,” Butts said. “It’s always easier to kill weeds before they emerge.”
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division
of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media contact:Ryan McGeeneyCommunications ServicesUniversity of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com