My Way of Thinking: Dry sounding meetings can surprise

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Rich Keller Ever hear about an upcoming meeting, and you question how interesting or informative it will really be?

It happened to me recently. When it was suggested I attend the 2012 Adjuvants & Inerts Annual Conference, I thought this has to be a dry conference where the speakers will talk over my head.  

It was organized by the Council of Producers & Distributors of Agrotechnology, which makes those outside the organization wonder exactly what this group does. Luckily, I knew this was the renamed Chemical Producers & Distributors Association. Per the council’s vision statement, “The CPDA is the voice of generic pesticide, inert, adjuvant and surfactant manufacturers, as well as crop protection product formulators and distributors on matters involving legislative and regulatory issues affecting the crop protection industry.”

I did think the conference had potential because I heard, the president Susan Ferenc, Ph.D., speak at the CropWorld North America conference earlier this year. She spoke about the regulatory situation related to the Environmental Protection Agency writing new rules for labeling and product use to reduce pesticide drift potential.

Although the drift control segment of the meeting was my main enticement to attend the meeting, I was more than surprised at the excellent presenters and the varied topics covered. Instead of dry scientific presentations that would make the majority of Weed Science of America presenters seem like standup comics, the Adjuvants and Inerts Annual Conference speakers provided better insight into topics than most speakers talking to non-science trained media. In other words, it was a great surprise and an enjoyable day of presentations.

At the conference, Spencer Vance, president of Albaugh, Inc., started things off with a quick-paced keynote look at the crop protection industry with projections for the near future. University and industry speakers talked about controlling resistant weeds using generic pesticides. The obstacles and potential for 300-bushel average corn yields from an industry point-of-view, rather than a theoretical university view, was presented. What soil amendments can accomplish for water conservation came from a university and industry perspective. Company representatives knowledgeable about 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops gave specific information, and a university researcher familiar with the products added a third-party perspective.

The final presentation of the day was the big one that so many in attendance had been waiting to hear. It explained the “Role of Innovation and Technology in Reducing Spray Drift.” Greg Kruger, University of Nebraska, reported on the construction of a low-speed and a high-speed wind tunnel for testing equipment and products for drift reduction. Curtis Elsik, Huntsman Corporation, talked about progress in characterizing product performance in reducing “driftable fines,” and the determination of a droplet less than 105 microns being classified as such.      

Jay Ellenberger, EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, ended the day talking about the EPA’s “Drift Reduction Technology Program,” which he said is all about identifying and verifying drift reduction. The EPA, working with industry and universities, sees a program that will outline testing protocol to verify, with data, application technology achieving drift reduction. He said he foresees the verification of drift reduction by a nozzle, adjuvant or other additive product earning a star rating from one to four with four reserved for the best drift reduction products on the market and ratings being similar to those handed out by the United Kingdom and possibly European continent countries.

This was one of the most informative days of presentations that I have attended in some time, and I commend CPDA for keeping it to my science level, although its total membership is to whom the conference must appeal.

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