The 2012 Annual Meeting of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) had a record attendance with 610 pre-meeting registrants for its Reno, Nev., annual meeting. Some of that attendance success can be attributed to the outgoing president, Dennis Hattermann, accomplishing goals that he set upon entering office.

As Hattermann of Landis International, Valdosta, Ga., noted in his wrap-up of the year, his goals included increasing membership, enhancing membership benefits, encouraging younger consultant membership with a mentoring program, increasing international presence of NAICC overseas, increasing presence in Washington, D.C., and encouraging interaction between crop consultants and research consultants.

Hattermann finished his term at the meeting and handed the reins of the alliance over to Blaine Viator with Calvin Viator and Associates, Thibodeaux, La.

Research and Crop Consultant InteractionMuch of the 2011 meeting program was spun out of goals that Hattermann had set with the biggest being cooperation among the different groups that make up NAICC—crop consultants, research consultants and quality assurance professionals.

An example of the value that can be accomplished through cooperation and mentoring came from Grady Coburn, Pest Management Enterprises, Inc., Cheneyville, La. He said he hoped that his comments might inspire younger meeting attendees to think about business ventures to expand into new opportunities.

COMPLEMENTARY CONSULTING

“At least from my perspective, consulting and contract research are not independent of one another but in fact are related and I think quite complementary of one another,” Coburn said.

His company does both research and crop consulting, and he explained ways in which research consulting complements crop consulting and vice versa.

“In our research endeavors, we get the opportunity to work with brand new crop protection products, new seed varieties and very interesting transgenic traits. We get the first-hand experience by conducting those research trails, and when crop protection products, traits and varieties become commercially available, we already have some experience. We can take that experience to our consulting clients,” Coburn explained.

Additionally, research protocols that improve monitoring or are time saving can be used in the crop consulting, he noted. Doing a good job in research has resulted in research clients introducing Coburn to possible farming clients over the years.

Research and Crop Consultant InteractionWorking off of his research farm on rented plot ground earns farmers’ attention. It is like advertising that has resulted in growers hiring his company to crop consult because they trust someone who would be hired to do practical research.

As for being a crop consultant and how that might be an advantage to manufacturers or seed companies, Coburn said he might run into problems at an early stage or identify a problem that the company needed to research. Because crop consultants are extremely diversified in their knowledge and disciplines, their diversification can be of value to a client needing specific research including ideas on how, where and when to conduct the research.

Being proficient in many disciplines such as entomology, weed science, soil fertility, water management, etc. also translates into companies being confident that they are hiring a professional that can help them.

An advantage to the company paying for research is the connection the crop consultant has with his farming clients to find a perfect plot location. Coburn said, “It has been my experience that when we rent from a consulting client, first of all, they are much more likely to allow us to do the work; they are much more cooperative with us; and, quite frankly, they are much more reasonable on the rental rate.”

Research and Crop Consultant InteractionAnd not least of all, the experience in all the diverse disciplines of crop consulting, plus experience with research, opens the door for a consultant to “provide really good constructive criticism to our research clients on making their protocol better and achieving the ultimate objective of the research.”

Coburn ended by recognizing the important role that quality assurance professionals provide in “assisting us in staying compliant with the rules and regs that the EPA has established” in research programs.

Coburn was one speaker from a panel and represented the renaissance consultant. Panel discussion was a main method of hearings opinions, facts and outlooks for the future of agricultural consulting during the 2012 annual meeting.

WEEDS WERE MAJOR PANEL TOPIC

Panel topics that dominated a big percentage of the annual meeting agenda for the crop consultants’ were weed resistance management in general and by crop; working together for the grower by fertilizer supplier, ag retailer and independent crop consultant; research, crop and QA consultant professionals working together; irrigation and water management issues; and legal matters in terms of expert witnesses and investigating crop damage claims. (There are two separate agendas—one for the crop consultants and one for the researcher and QA professionals.)

The first crop consultant panel session kicked off with the weed resistance topic because it is an issue at the forefront of many crop consultants’ thoughts as their customers are asking for assistance. To confine the discussion, which at its complete extent is bigger than could be handled in the two hours allotted on the program, the attendees decided to focus on specific areas of concern—weeds showing resistance for which consultants are needing answers to help their customers, general containment and management of an outbreak of resistant weeds, the verification process to identify resistant weeds, and weed seed dispersal issues.

Research and Crop Consultant InteractionIt was noted that the extent of herbicide-resistant weeds found on a farm is affecting the value of that land when placed up for sale. The control of resistant weeds in corn and soybean production has been a main focus of crop protection companies because of the earlier detection of herbicide-resistant weeds in those southern and Midwest regions.

The breakout of the wheat consultants was a group of fewer consultants but not one without problems to address. It was noted that non-rotated wheat is the main problem encouraging weed resistance. Another big issue is movement of resistant weeds into areas where “low-input farmers” don’t spray herbicides to counter lower return on investment where weather only supports lower-yielding crops. When resistant weeds spill into those fields, they can explode into a problem that those farmers still want to avoid addressing.

In areas where wheat is rotated with another crop, as one consultant suggested, “Make sure to take advantage and do a stellar job of weed management when you have a chance” in non-wheat crops for which there are generally more herbicide options.