With weeds potentially slashing beet output by up to a third, growers unsure that they can get spray timings spot on must be prepared to spend more on control, suggested Broom’s Barn’s Mike May.

As this season’s dry April progressed, and weed emergence became increasingly sporadic, the value of adding desmedipham and ethofumesate to early treatments to allow later spray timings to be more flexible had been reinforced, he explained.

“People using the FAR system on early drilled crops got very good results this year, but getting the timings right was essential.”

Trials for Bayer CropScience comparing various options against programmes based on Betanal Expert (desmedipham + ethofumesate + phenmedipham) at three timings, including a delayed treatment on 22 May, showed good control was possible over a range of timings despite the difficult conditions.

But missing the optimum timings with conventional phenmedipham programmes left plenty of competing weeds, notably bindweed on the Broom’s Barn site.

“Late sprays of Debut do seem to favour fat hen unless extra contact herbicide is included in the mix,” he added.

At one time the FAR approach, which could save £40/ha, was used on about a third of the crop.But with growers under increasing workload pressures the current figure was nearer 25%, he estimated.

“If you know you’re not going to be able to time things right you might have to consider spending 30-40% more.”