EASTERN ONTARIO — The tight supply of glyphosate got even tighter as Bayer warned agribusinesses of a possible impact on deliveries after a mechanical failure at the factory of a key ingredient supplier.
The chemical and pharmaceutical giant issued a letter to vendors Feb. 11 explaining that the unnamed supplier wasn’t expected to resolve its problem for three months. The predicament compelled Bayer to claim a “force majeure” event, while pledging to minimize the disruption as much as possible.
Even before the latest supply pinch, glyphosate had become harder to get during the pandemic, doubling or more in price over the last year alone.
Bayer makes the most popular branded versions of glyphosate, including RoundUp, a herbicide that has become indispensable to modern agriculture since its release in the mid-1970s.
In rural Ottawa, crop-spraying and harvesting contractor Jonathan Woerlen told Farmers Forum that his own supplier had already contacted him to ask about his glyphosate needs for the coming crop year, in light of the statement from Bayer.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll have what I need,” Woerlen said, while acknowledging it may not be the preferred Bayer brand of glyphosate in his tank in all cases this year. “It’s going to be what’s available.”
Glyphosate is by far the most popular chemical herbicide he applies for clients, the Green Acres Farm proprietor said.
From corn to soybeans and canola — even new varieties of alfalfa — entire RoundUp-ready plant lines have been developed to work in tandem with the product. The farmer sprays the crop but only the weeds die from the glyphosate, which disrupts the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
Woerlen pointed out that there are alternative herbicides, though those products are even more expensive. Still, “changing up the chemistry in the field is not necessarily a bad thing at this point,” he offered, when asked what would happen if many farms flat-out couldn’t get their hands on glyphosate.
Glyphosate itself could reach $15 or $16 per litre this year, he predicted, if Bayer doesn’t ramp up production.
Chesterville-area spraying contractor Tim Van Gilst also said he was confident of his glyphosate supply, but similarly said the brand might be different than usual.
Van Gilst said he applies the versatile product from spring through to freeze-up at the end of the season.