More growers could use pre-emergence herbicides for grassweed control, and take some of the pressure off Atlantis (mesosulfuron-methyl + iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium), despite large increases in their use in the past five seasons.

About 600,000ha of pre-emergence herbicides were sprayed last season, according to BASF product manager Andrew Jones’ estimate.

That is up from 538,000ha the previous season and 167,000ha in 2001.

But there is still potential for the market to increase next season.

“I don’t think we’ll see the big increases of past seasons, but there are two reasons why it could grow,” says Mr Jones.

“One, blackgrass problems are still spreading geographically; and two, on farms where pre-ems are used they are not always on all the area.

That’s not necessarily right or wrong, but clearly hitting early does pay dividends,” he says.

Not using a pre-emergence on some parts of the farm could push the problem around the farm, he suggests.

“I think some farmers might admit to that.

And treating with a pre-emergence might be a sensible long-term approach to minimising reliance on high-risk actives, especially as resistance to sulfonylureas is developing.”

A BASF-commissioned independent survey of agronomists covering 183,000ha of wheat suggests they are starting to look at pre-emergence herbicides as the starting point of programmes, rather than building backwards from Atlantis.

“Pre-emergence was the most frequently recommended approach for next season.

To some extent they were leaving their options open at post-emergence.”