PRE-EMERGENCE herbicide users left with more unapplied product than usual after a tricky autumn spraying season are destined for a mixed reaction from suppliers.

In East Anglia as much as one-third of planned treatments with Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin), Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican) and Uranus (linuron + trifluralin) have not gone on, estimates TAG”s David Parish.

Beds-based Bob Mills of Banks Cargill puts the figure at 25-33%.

“There has certainly been less pre-emergence herbicide applied than in plan A because seed-beds weren’t good enough or seed wasn’t drilled deeply enough,” he says.

There is scope to use the first two products in post-emergence mixtures, but not with Uranus, notes Mr Mills.

All have relatively tight application windows and marketing opportunities, adds Mr Parish. “I suspect suppliers are not that keen on taking products back, but they do seem to be doing so. It all depends on your relationship with your distributor.”

Mr Mills says: “It’s never a good idea to take product back. For our most strongly serviced clients, where we decide what should go on and when, we’d be very sympathetic.

“Indeed, where we make recommendations and something can’t go on, we generally replace it with the next best option. “But if somebody has bought from us on the basis of What is your best price?” we’d be reluctant to take it back.”

Ironically, with little Avadex (tri-allate) available, stocks of pre-emergence products were forecast to be tight back in June, he adds.

“If everybody who had planned using a pre-emergence herbicide had done so, we would probably have been embarrassed.”

Cambs-based Dick Neale of Hutchinsons reckons as much as 40% of intended treatments missed the pre-em slot.

But with most growers getting only enough for a three-quarter dose, after the earlier shortage, the potential returns problem is not as serious as it might have been.

Echoing Mr Mills, he says the firm’s reaction will vary between individual customers.

“If we have a good relationship, where they are prepared to take the rough with the smooth for the sake of continuity, for our part we’d look after them.

“If it’s just down to price, they are on their own.”

In the south, however, most growers who intended using pre-ems have managed to apply them, albeit slightly later in mixtures, notes UAP’s Peter Gould.

“There is not very much to go back in my part of the world – Hants, Dorset and Wilts. It’s not an issue.”