15 September 2000

Spray leaves bad taste in mouth for rabbits

YORKSHIRE-BASED plant nutritionist Jim Over believes he has come up with a cheap and practical solution to one of farmings biggest problems, the millions of £s of damage caused each year by rabbits and other wildlife.

His spray, marketed as Grazers by James Over & Co of Pickering has two functions. Sprayed immediately after crop emergence it stops rabbits grazing vulnerable crops. Where damage has already occurred it accelerates growth, helping the crop recover, says Mr Over.

Having spent the best part of a decade working on his formulation Mr Over is guarded about the contents of the product, beyond saying it contains calcium and other ingredients, is harmless and is non-toxic in horticulture and agriculture.

Mr Over says there is no need to spray whole fields. A single spray boom width around the crop headland will generally suffice in cereals or grass, while in pigeon-damaged rape only damaged areas need treatment.

"Basically when a rabbit approaches what it thinks is a tasty meal, it finds it is totally unpalatable and completely rejects the new or damaged plants and hops away confused, hungry and mad as a hatter!" he says.

Application rate is 250ml/ha in 250 litres of water. A litre of product treats 4ha (10 acres) of headland and costs £100.

The product should be applied on its own and no other sprays should be applied for at least three days, advises Mr Over.

Grazers is said to be effective against rabbits, pigeons, geese and deer.

After 10 years of research the product was launched last autumn as a rabbit deterrent. But that fell foul of the Pesticide Safety Directorate, and has been taken off the market.

Now that it has been relabelled as a damage repair product it is back on the market. It is not a pesticide so falls outside the scope of the PSD and has found enthusiastic users in both agriculture and horticulture, says Mr Over, who adds that it also has approval from MAFF and Trading Standards officials. &#42

ANTI-RABBIT PRODUCT

&#8226 Stops rabbit grazing.

&#8226 Speeds crop recovery.

&#8226 Apply early post-em.

&#8226 £25/ha cost.

Farmers well pleased

Guy Johnson of Bedale used Grazers this spring on winter barley which had been eaten down to the roots by rabbits. The crop came back to normal giving an average yield, which is a tonne more than would have been expected had it been left alone, he says.

Another enthusiast is Brian Wise of Skipton-on-Ure near Thirsk. "We applied it on some rabbit-damaged barley, and it really did the trick. The crop caught up with the rest of the field, so that we did not have the usual problem of late development, which means you get a combine full of green grains. It is the best thing we have found apart from fencing them out, and it is a lot cheaper."

Rabbits-be-gone! Yorks growers Ian (left) and Malcolm Rooke (right) have been impressed with James Overs Grazers spray.

Crop grazing can cause far more yield loss than growers realise.