Supplies of key residual cereal weed killer Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin) have run out early for the second consecutive season.

Agronomists seeking extra supplies of the product many growers use as the base of blackgrass control programmes in wheat and barley were told by manufacturer BASF around two weeks ago that no further product would be made available in the UK.

Shropshire-based buying group, Farmadvisers, had only received 40% of its expected Crystal sales, Bryce Rham, an independent agronomist and Farmadviser director said.

“Distribution had been told there was no problem with Crystal supply this season, but around two weeks ago were suddenly told there wasn’t any more.”

Nick Brown, an agronomist with ProCam, said it was a case of déjà vu, with supplies running out early.

However, more product had been supplied to the market this season, he said, compared with 2010, when the market was undersupplied by around 50% in some cases. “At least this year a lot is on farm.”

That message was echoed by Agrovista’s Mark Hemmant. “We’ve had everything we were supposed to have, although BASF has had some phasing issues. But if you go into an Agrovista store to get some Crystal today you’ll probably be disappointed.”

BASF blamed the sell-out on an exceptional year for the product. “There is more wheat in the ground, and growers have looked to capitalise on the good control they saw last year,” said Sarah Mountford-Smith, product manager for BASF.

“We’ve sold significantly higher volumes than last year and the year before.”

Product supply was partly based on forecasting received from the supply chain, and while the firm tried to manage volatility in demand, it was difficult to react quickly in season to extra demand, she said.

But she denied claims that product had been switched from the UK market to other countries. “It is simply not the case we’ve had a better offer. I don’t think we are the only ones to run out of flufenacet product this season either.”

Supplies of competitor flufenacet product, Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) were still available, however, NIAB TAG’s David Parish said. “Those ordering Crystal on a just-in-time basis or to top-up are likely to have been disappointed, but the key active for growers is flufenacet, and you can still get Liberator.”