DECATUR — DuPont Pioneer has various slogans posted around the inside of its tent at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.
One of them above a display of its clothing products for sale reads, “There are no one size fits all answers in this business.” For Pioneer and other seed companies at Progress City USA this week, that slogan captures the work each business is trying to do.
Pioneer presenter Justin Welch said Wednesday the company tries to work with each of its customers to come up with solutions for their farms.
“We want to make sure our prescriptions are right for you,” Welch said. “No two growers farm exactly the same.”
Much of the research and development work focuses on improving crop yields and reducing the risk of diseases in plants.
“Diseases are a huge problem with a big impact on the industry,” said Tony White, Monsanto soybean traits product development manager. “It’s something I’d like to see more growers focus on.”
Diseases can have a significant impact from an economic perspective, potentially leading to millions of dollars in yield losses, White said. Farmers should learn to better scout for diseases, but learning to spot problems can be difficult to learn, he said.
Monsanto modified part of its exhibit at the show for visitors to be able to take self-guided tours and get answers to their specific questions, said Michelle Vigna, a Monsanto launch manager. The company emphasizes that multiple modes of action are important in controlling the impact of diseases, she said.
Companies are focusing research efforts on ensuring their products are effective.
“More farmers are concerned about weed resistance,” said David Hollinrake, vice president of agricultural commercial operations for Bayer Crop Sciences.
The company plans to make a 10-year investment of $250 million for crop protection development, Hollinrake said.
“That’s a pretty steep investment,” he said. “Only a few companies have the capabilities and resources to make those kinds of innovations. The pipeline is rich.”
Farmer Ken Dalenberg of Mansfield emphasized the importance of applying fungicides while discussing his work with agricultural chemical company BASF. Applying fungicides helps plants remain healthy and transport nutrients as necessary, he said.
“Fungicides should be sprayed if warranted,” Dalenberg said. “Plant health is a reason for it to be warranted.”
Other farmers should look at how fungicide applications fit into their management strategies, Dalenberg said.
“With fungicides, they’re able to handle stress more efficiently,” he said. “Stress is what affects yields, and yields are what affect my bottom line.”
Some companies are telling visitors to the event that making use of as much of a crop as possible helps their production. Archer Daniels Midland Co. of Decatur is displaying its Second Crop technology, which takes corn stalks from after harvest and turns it into animal feed, said John Klein, an ADM beef nutrition specialist.
The technology is being used primarily in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, as Klein said the company plans to develop interest in it for wider use.
“It continues to break the fiber down,” Klein said. “Animals can get more nutrients out of it. By harvesting crop residue, it can be a substantial bump in yield.”
ADM is offering visitors an interactive display to see all of the items from around the house its products can be found in.
Monsanto offers a similar display focusing on vegetables to show its technology is being applied to improve crops, said James Gillum, a technology development representative with the company.
The company is working to protect against problems such as insects getting into crops, Gillum said. The goal is to make products as safe as possible for consumers, he said.
“These products are really going to be key in the future,” Gillum said. “We want to let consumers know how big a footprint we have in grocery stores. We really are everywhere.”
No matter the specific focus, all of the work is being done with the idea productivity needs to increase.
“As we celebrate the future, we face a major challenge,” said Mathias Kremer, head of strategy for Bayer. “We have daunting challenges ahead of us. That means more emphasis on innovation. Each project takes a step toward those objectives.”
Kremer said the target is to increase productivity to feed a global population of 9.6 billion people by 2050. If realized, he said productivity would increase by 70 percent more than all of the past 10,000 years.