MORE GENERIC products offering growers cheaper crop protection, often with more flexible labels than branded alternatives, is Makhteshim-Agan’s goal for 2005.

“In many cases, we are the only other supplier of key products to the market, which means we are very much the farmer’s friend, helping keep products available at competitive prices, with on-going development to support them,” says the firm’s commercial manager Rob Williams.

“We have a low cost structure and low overheads, so we can be up to 23% cheaper to the market [than other top manufacturers].”

Extending product labels to beat competitors is a key tactic, with Alpha Trifluralin 48EC a prime example. It already takes 70% of the trifluralin market, but the four true-leaf cut-off is too early, particularly for use with Atlantis. This year, it has just been extended to GS22 and GS30 is hoped for in time for next year.

“This is a real bonus for those looking to get on top of blackgrass populations with Atlantis mixes before the spring,” says MA”s Elizabeth Spence. Unlike pendimethalin there is no recorded instance of blackgrass resistance. It is also cheaper, she adds.

significant step

Makhteshim is also making its first significant step into fungicides, marketing tebuconazole-based Folicur lookalike Orius 25EC. Aimed at T3 wheat ears, plus other crops, its label will match Folicur, says Mr Williams. A 25EW water-based formulation is planned for 2006, with generic epoxiconazole (as in Opus) to follow in 2008.

Granular pendimethalin as Bema 40% WDG and Alpha Pendimethalin 330EC will be on offer in commercial quantities in 2005, after a limited launch last autumn.

“We are committed to maintaining alternatives to branded products in the marketplace, to give growers choice,” says Mr Williams. Labels match BASF’s Stomp.

A formulated pendimethalin plus trifluralin mix is planned for pre-em use in 2006 and as a post-em Atlantis mixer for 2007. A mix with trifluralin and linuron as Uranus Super is planned for 2007.

In sugar beet, MA”s ethofumesate products ensure Bayer does not have a monopoly, with a metamitron co-formulation as Goltix Super anticipated this spring.

future profitability

But the overall need in beet is simpler product offers, says Mr Williams. “Looking at the crop’s future profitability, growers will want low-cost solutions. There’s a lot of nonsense around four basic herbicides.”

Growers should look to the Irish system of two herbicides and shut the gate, he suggests. “There may be a few more weeds, but it is going to be more profitable.”

In potatoes, linuron is being re-registered for the UK, with the 960kg/ha/year rate supported until 2007. Sequences with Titus (rimsulfuron) are being advocated to cope thereafter.

In peas, the demise of triazine herbicides in 2007 will be offset by the arrival of Blois, based on Uranus, hopefully in 2005, to replace Battalion and Opogard. It is already established for use in vining and combining peas in France.