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What's been hot and what's not in 2008

As the 2008 growing season hits the homestretch, what's hot and what's not?

Here are some of the hot and not-so-hot topics that speakers at a Syngenta media summit this week in Kissimmee, Florida, discussed.

  • Demand for grain. "In the last 8 years, there was only one year in which the production of cereals was higher than consumption," says Valdemar Fischer, president and regional head for Syngenta's NAFTA crop protection region. It continues in 2008, due to drivers like foreign customers and biofuels.

    "It is a big challenge we are facing, with food consumption increasing in countries like China, India, and some countries in South America," says Fischer. "There is a need to continue increasing yields."

Fungicides. "This is a fast growing business for Syngenta," says Fischer. "Farmers around the world are seeing benefits to using fungicides to protect crops. In the past, fungicides were not widely used in crops like corn in the U.S. We have very good data that using our fungicide Quilt can increase corn yields an average 15 bushels per acre."

Corn's higher price plateau is tilting the odds toward fungicide payoff. At $2 per bushel, fungicide payoffs are more questionable, says Fischer. "When corn prices are $5, it's a very attractive proposition," he says.

Grain price volatility. Get used to this year's price upward spirals (think early June following Midwest flooding) and price slices (think this week's commodity fund bailout).

"In 2008, going forward into 2009, there will be unprecedented market volatility," says Travis Dickinson, head of marketing for Syngenta crop protection." Prices are impacted by global trade, exchange rates, the strength of the dollar, and financial markets. We're in a tenuous state for global supply and demand and carryover stocks."

Fungicides may be hot, but the one disease that opened the eyes of U.S. farmers to their potential merit -- soybean rust -- isn't. Four years after soybean rust first surfaced in the United Sates, this South American scourge still hasn't razed U.S. soybean acres as initially feared.

Conditions were ripe for a potential epidemic in 2008, particularly in double crop soybeans following wheat in Southern areas, says Dickinson. Hurricanes could have spread the disease northward. Still, it didn't happen.

"We will continue to be in a position to deal with it as more of a niche infestation, targeting the South and south central U.S.," says Dickinson. "I think the expectation we'll see a major epidemic moving up in the Midwest is highly unlikely."

As the 2008 growing season hits the homestretch, what's hot and what's not?

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