26 April 1996

Buy on quality – not price

The season for ordering silage plastic, for sheeting or wrapping, is here again. Andrew Faulkner visits two manufacturers in Germany

SKIMPING on silage sheet quality is a false economy, claims BP Chemicals PlasTec.

BPs German-based agricultural plastics division says UK farmers usually base their buying decision on price rather than sheet thickness and quality. Continental farmers tend to take a different approach.

Whereas many UK farmers use two layers of 125micron (500-gauge) thickness polythene sheet, their cross-Channel counterparts regard 150micron sheeting as an absolute minimum for providing an air-tight seal and protecting against ultra-violet light (UVI) degradation and perforation.

"Obviously, the thicker silage sheet is more expensive to buy," BPs Gerhard Geither explains.

"But in terms of cost a tonne clamped it works out at no more than a few pence. However, it is still difficult to persuade UK farmers that the extra buying price is worth paying."

BPs main clamp sheet seller on this side of the Channel is its 125micron SiloTop, but at next months Kemira Grassland (May 22-23) it will introduce two new products.

Badged Alpha and Dualene, the two sheets are both of 150micron thickness and co-extruded – in simple terms, two very thin layers which appear as one. Alpha costs 5p/sq m more than standard Silotop, while the white, reflective Dualene costs an extra 6p/sq m. Silotop is priced at about 11p/sq m (1p/sq ft).

Twin-layer advantage

Mr Geither says producing a twin-layered/co-extruded sheet has one main advantage.

"It enables different characteristics to be built into the two layers. For example, we can make the outer layer resistant to UVI and the bottom layer less susceptible to perforation."

So confident is BP of the benefits of co-extrusion that it is offering a 12-month written guarantee on the Alpha sheet. The firm claims this is the first such warranty in Europe. &#42

BPs German plastics plant at Michelstadt pushed out more than 150,000 miles of round bale net wrap in 1995 – equivalent to six times round the globe. Total market share in Europe is about 35%.