Insight on spray drift and off-patent chemistry
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A program with a large diversity of agricultural topics that included information about adjuvants and inerts was conducted in Kansas City May 15-17. The annual conference was organized by the Council of Producers & Distributors of Agrotechnology, which is the former Chemical Producers & Distributors Association.
Over the years, the organization that kept its acronym of CPDA with the new name, has conducted the annual Adjuvants & Inerts Conference in various locations of the country. Whether the name change had anything to do with attendance isn’t clear, but attendance was announced as a record that topped 130 persons.
The broad list of topics on the agenda had to influence the attendance, but probably of most interest was the session about the upcoming rule making by the Environmental Protection Agency related to spray drift products—active ingredient pesticides, spray mix additives, adjuvants and equipment, including nozzles. This last session on the agenda May 16 was “Role of Innovation and Technology in Reducing Spray Drift.” Three presenters spoke.
Greg Kruger, University of Nebraska, reported on the progress of construction of two wind tunnels at North Platte being certified for testing nozzles and products to determine drift potential in field application situations. A low-speed wind tunnel for testing ground application and a high-speed wind tunnel for testing aerial application have been constructed by the university with private industry funding involved. The aerial application tunnel is nearing completion, and the ground application tunnel recently became operational.
The second speaker was Curtis Elsik, Huntsman Corporation, who talked about progress in characterizing product performance in reducing “driftable fines.” He emphasized the wording of reducing and driftable fines being measurable. At one point, regulatory wording centered around eliminating spray drift, but that has changed. He noted how working with the EPA has helped the industry working group determine that a droplet under 105 microns should be classified as a driftable fine.
Concluding this session of high interest to attendees were comments made by Jay Ellenberger, EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. He talked about the EPA Drift Reduction Technology Program and how it is “all about identify and verify drift reduction.” The EPA, working with industry and universities, sees a program that will outline testing protocol to verify with data that application technology achieves drift reduction. This is where the Nebraska wind tunnels become so important, it was noted. There are only two other low-speed wind tunnels in the U.S. and no other high-speed wind tunnel for testing active ingredient or inert ingredient products.
Ellenberger 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 Europe.
The keynote address was made by Spencer Vance, president of Albaugh, Inc. The title was “State of the Crop Protection Industry and the Potential Success of 2,4-D and Dicamba Resistance Traits.”
Other presentation sessions on May 16 were made by two or more industry persons and/or university specialists. Titles were “Using Generic Pesticides to Manage Resistance,” “The 300 Bushel Corn Challenge,” “Soil Amendments for Water Conservation,” and “Risks vs. Rewards of 2,4-D and Dicamba Tolerant Crops.”
Vance explained that off-patent crop protection manufacturers and suppliers are having ups and downs, and multi-national companies are doing their best to maintain market share with various strategies. There are several major situations that are being addressed.
- Multi-nationals are continuing to develop and promote bundling programs.
- Multi-nationals are also working to extend the off-patent life of their original proprietary products.
- Generic product life cycle decreased up to half, now about 3 years, due to price erosions that occur.
- The herbicide market is down compared to the current and potential money in fungicides and insecticides.
- There is an emphasis on crop, seed trait development.
- Seed traits are being used to drive seed business and leverage those traits to sell herbicides.
- Data costs continue to be expensive for off-patent product companies, and the high costs do not end with data compensation.
- There is a continued shift to pre-plant incorporated and pre-emergence herbicides use on Roundup Ready crops.
- New off-shore entrants with short-term aspirations and plans for avoidance of data compensation are a concern.
- There is continued leverage by multi-nationals in dealing with major distributors.
- Market access by companies is difficult in the U.S. as there is domination by five or six major distributors and buying groups.
At one time there were 35 companies providing generic and off-patent product, but today most of those are not active, Vance said. One major problem has been glyphosate. He attributed the glyphosate business downturn with the appearance of resistant weeds plus Monsanto pricing as causing problems for companies. “It has been an interesting ride in the glyphosate business.”
But he also noted that there is “continued evolution in the marketplace.” Ups and downs have been something off-patent product manufacturers have dealt with over the years. It won’t be long before 100 percent of today’s current chemistries are off patent and 75 percent of those being sold today are off-patent.
Vance suggested that the introduction of 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops will allow herbicide solution diversity, and he isn’t ready to forfeit all the off-patent, generic formulation sales of these products to the multi-nationals.
Stewardship continues to be necessary in using both active ingredients, he emphasized, including clean-out procedures to keep even the smallest amount away from sensitive crops. For example with 2,4-D, Vance said, there are “real finite levels between growth regulation and death.”