Competition is fierce among agrochemical companies, and this week’s agrochemical news highlights why. Here are some newsworthy topics worth following this week in the agrochemical industry:

Big Bio-Organic Fertilizer Firm Makes Big Moves With the Opening of the Biggest Bio-Organic Fertilizer Plant in Northern Vietnam

Bio-organic fertilizer manufacturer and trading company Que Lam Group opened a bio-organic fertilizer plant in Northern Vietnam. The plant cost $21 million USD and covers four hectares making it the largest bio-organic fertilizer plant in the region. With the capacity to produce 250,000 tons of fertilizer, Que Lam Group boosts its total production capacity across its plants to 500,000 tons annually.
The company aims to improve its farm products’ value in its global supply chains to meet increasing demands for organic fertilizers. This news is important for agrochemical companies to monitor as biochemical fertilizers and other agrochemical alternatives continue to pose a threat with added competition in the agrochemical industry.

Ag-Bots May Work as Weedkilling Alternatives to Popular Herbicides

Agricultural robots or “ag-bots” from companies, such as Farmwise and Naio Technologies, may prove as a viable alternative to commonly used herbicides like dicamba and glyphosate. These autonomous weeders are in use in countries, such as Canada, France, Japan and even California. Naio Technologies’ Dino has the potential to save farmers hours of manual labor and hundreds of dollars per acre for weeding costs. The Dino is completely electric and free of pesticides. Farmwise also is working on prototypes that weed inside crop rows. These robot weedkillers have a way to go before commercialization in the United States, but agrochemical companies and investors should monitor its progress as these agro-bots may stiffen competition.

EPA Approval of Dicamba May Have Sparked Disputes Among Farmers

While Bayer faces lawsuits, its push to legalize the use of the lucrative herbicide dicamba on crops has paid off. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved over-the-top use of dicamba back in 2018. However, the lasting effects of this approval may have also sparked a “civil war” among farmers. In a joint investigation, nonprofit journalistic organizations Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN) and The Center for Investigative Reporting (Reveal) highlighted how decades of research from academic scientists indicate the extensive damage dicamba can have on crops of other farmers due to “dicamba drift.” Farmers use the herbicide to kill weeds that damage soybeans and other crops.
However, farmers who are adjacent to farms that may use dicamba may experience crop damage since dicamba may miss its target and drift to crops. Moreover, some crops are increasingly becoming resistant to dicamba. Scientists are also linking dicamba to millions of dollars of crop damage between the 2017-2018 growing season. Yet, soybean farmers are looking for ways to keep their crop viable, amidst reduced bushel prices and competition from China. Thus, a battle continues to brew between neighboring farmers who are disputing whether dicamba’s use is worth the cost in keeping soybean farmers competitive at the price of sacrificing other crops. It’s important for agrochemical investors and industry leaders to keep a watch on dicamba’s use among farmers as a decline in dicamba use can mean a decline in bottom-line profits.

EPA Reaffirms Glyphosate Unlikely Cancer-Causing Agent

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently ruled that glyphosate is unlikely the cause of cancer. While the EPA reaffirms its initial findings that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic, other organizations still link glyphosate to cancer, including the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). However, the EPA highlights that its research is stronger than the IARC’s review thanks to the EPA’s rigorous guidelines and transparency.
This news comes after mega agrochemical company Bayer lost two lawsuits where juries found its glyphosate-laden RoundUp weedkiller the root behind the cancers of the lawsuits’ plaintiffs. Bayer is appealing the judgments, which require Bayer to pay a total of $159 million in damages. With the EPA’s ruling, Bayer may have a chance to boost its argument to appeal the rulings made in both lawsuits.