31 October 1997

Strong £ brings bargain buys in grain herbicides

By Robert Harris

CEREAL herbicide prices are 10-20% down on last year, mainly due to the strength of the £. At the start of this week five litres of isoproturon (IPU) was available for less than £15.

Whats more, there is time for growers to shop around for the best deals. Slow weed growth and lush, scorch-susceptible crops on some farms means no urgent need to spray. And those growers who need to start can spray now and pay later.

"Blackgrass, even in the most forward crops, only has about two leaves, so there is no panic yet," says Colin Myram of East Anglian-based Crop Care. Crops which have only had one or two frosts on them also need to harden off, he adds.

The recent price fall is mainly due to the strength of the £. "There is an element of competition among traders which has helped. But most active ingredients are manufactured abroad, and prices are adjusting to change in the exchange rate."

Merchants have also lobbied makers hard for prices to be reduced given the increased threat from parallel imports due to the slump of farm profits, he adds.

Straight IPU is typically about 20% cheaper than this time last year, which has helped reduce the price of products containing other chemistry like diflufenican and fops. Hawk (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) is available for 10-15% less, says Mr Myram.

Growers keen to spray are obtaining unpriced chemical from some distributors, says Suffolk-based farm consultant Gordon Macintyre. Those so-called trust deals mean growers can spray now and finalise prices later.

However, regardless of payment date, growers should obtain good information to pressure distributors to drive prices down further, he maintains. Mr Macintyres own surveys show some growers buy chemicals at a massive discount, which saved them up to 30% on IPU last year.

IPU can be bought for little over £15 for a five-litre pack, says Herts-based independent agronomist Peter Taylor.

He believes trust deals may be worth considering, as farmers gear up for the main spraying push. Although seed-beds are too dry in his area for good residual activity at present, soil temperatures are cooling.

That will reduce chemical breakdown, so product applied now will still be available to control weeds once rain returns, he explains.

"Growers are probably right to crack on with it. There is a lot of blackgrass coming through. Most is at the single-leaf stage and can be controlled with IPU mixes. In a week or two, once it gets to the three-leaf stage, contact materials like Hawk and perhaps Cheetah will be needed."

CHEMICAL COST CUTS

* Prices down 10-20%.

* Shop for best deals.

* Consider spray now, pay later option if urgent need to spray.

CHEMICAL COST CUTS

&#8226 Prices down 10-20%.

&#8226 Shop for best deals.

&#8226 Consider spray now, pay later option if urgent need to spray.