Grass weed control cost to rise after bad autumn
By Andrew Blake
POOR conditions for autumn herbicide spraying mean many cereal growers now face weed control costs 40% higher than planned.
In some parts of the country just half the cereal area has been treated. Soggy fields, warm weather and big blackgrass plants mean growers now need to use more costly, contact-acting products as soon as conditions allow.
Nationally about 80% of UK cereals have had a herbicide, says AgrEvos Jo Palmer. But in some areas, like Lincs and Kent, probably less than 60% has been done, she says.
Mike Pearson of Novartis is more pessimistic. "Overall 30% remains to be sprayed, with nearer 50% in some parts."
Even where applications went on in good time, efficacy is a concern, add consultants. Indifferent performance from some IPU treatments means it is worth checking fields for results, says ADAS.
The breakpoint for herbicide costs is the growth stage of blackgrass. Once the weed starts tillering IPU ceases to be useful, notes Mrs Palmer. Growers must then switch to or add a contact material, inevitably increasing costs, she acknowledges.
Using a contact material could cost 40% more than an effective earlier IPU-based spray, says Mr Pearson. Only if sprays go on soon is there any scope to cut rates and minimise the rise in costs, he adds. "The problem is blackgrass is growing very strongly, so growers have to keep the rate up."
Herts-based independent agron-omist Peter Taylor reckons the jury is still out on autumn sprays. "There is a degree of optimism. Both residuals and contact products appear to be working, though it has taken some time for the effects to be seen. We could do with a week of solid frost to finish the job." *
• Large areas untreated.
• Strong growing blackgrass.
• Switch to contacts needed.
• Extra costs inevitable.
• Frost to help in places.