14 June 2002

Beet weed control hard this season

ACHIEVING effective weed control in sugar beet on light-land farms has been particularly hard this season.

Thistles and volunteer potatoes have been added complications.

"Emergence was erratic in the dry April and early May which made spray timings tricky," says SASs Andrew Melton. "With some beet at the four-leaf stage and others still emerging we had to adopt a safety-first approach and treat for the weakest link.

"High winds and a huge temperature variation between night and day made the job even more difficult. It was a holding operation to buy time, we had to mix and match products and rates. It was not a season for a prescriptive blue-print approach."

After the weather broke in mid May there were few available spray days. Heavy rain washed nitrogen into the soil and both beet and weeds raced ahead. Now weeds are bigger than normal.

"To cope we have had to increase spraying frequency and use a lot of phenmedipham, desmedipham and ethofumesate as co-formulations. Volunteer potatoes and thistles have been a nightmare this spring. We have had to use a lot of Shield; it is effective but not cheap, which has screwed up unrealistic weed control budgets," said Mr Melton. &#42