19 January 1996

High profile for PGRs is likely

HIGH nitrogen prices could boost the importance of cereal growth regulators this spring.

Although ammonium nitrate could reach £150/t, high grain prices mean growers are unlikely to cut nitrogen inputs, says Cargills Richard Sunderland. That means they will have more at stake, so raising the insurance benefits of regulators, he argues.

High fertiliser prices will "enhance the value" of regulators that increase plants uptake and use of nitrogen, says Cyanamids Eric Gussin.

French work with radioactively-labelled N showed winter wheat treated with the firms Meteor (chlormequat + choline chloride + imazaquin) contained 6% more N than untreated plots at harvest.

That was mainly because the bigger, longer roots from treatment were able to "scavenge" N more effectively from the soil, suggests technical services manager Peter Tayler.

Jonathan Brown for Ciba, whose new regulator Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) should be on sale by mid Feb, stresses the importance of keeping potentially high value cereals standing.

"People will rightly be pushing their crops, and should really be looking to exploit the best PGRs available as yield improvement tools." Even in the absence of lodging, the new product has lifted wheat output by up to 9%, he claims.

But with many crops drilled early and well-tillered, his advice is to delay applications until the key lodging prevention timing at stem elongation (GS30/31).

Growers have long considered fungicides, herbicides and nitrogen as their main inputs, says Mr Brown. But in what is "likely to be a lodging year" PGRs offer a good opportunity to lift gross margins and show their true merit, he believes.