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3 product approvals that could benefit root crop farmers

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Many crop protection products are coming under threat, so it will be welcome news for many that root crop farmers have 3 new potential product approvals to look forward to. The approvals are expected to happen over the next 2 years, and here we have some information on what they are and what the benefits will be.

1. New smart system to cut down on sugar beet herbicide sprays

A sugar beet that is tolerant to herbicides will offer farmers a cheaper means of managing those stubborn weeds over the next 2 years. It is set for commercialisation in 2020, combining a novel sugar beet variety with a bespoke herbicide, and it comes as the result of a collaboration between plant breeder KWS and agrochemical manufacturer Bayer.

Herbicides make up a significant chunk of sugar beet farmers' variable costs and, dependent on the approach a farm takes, there are several sprays which can be applied to resist weeds. The new Conviso Smart solution from the 2 companies will enable farmers to limit usage to just 1 or 2 sprays of the new ALS inhibitor from Bayer.

The product contains foramsulfuron, which is a herbicide that acts on contact and is familiar to maize growers, and thiencarbazone-methyl, which is both contact and residual active. It can be applied as 1 litre/ha at the stage of 2-4 leaves of marker weed fat hen. Alternatively, 2x0.5 litre/ha applications - 1 at the 2-leaf point and the next between 10 and 14 days later - can be utilised in dry seasons where activity may be required for longer.

Impressive control

Both options have yielded good results in trials and demonstrations against broad-leaved weeds and blackgrass. It will also be useful for problems with weed beet. It is believed that the system could produce commercially viable yields with enhanced crop safety. Usually, early herbicide applications can inhibit yields of conventional sugar beet, but Conviso Smart manages to grow away without hindrance.

2. A new herbicide to improve control of spud weed

Potato growers, having lost linuron, will be relieved to hear there is progress being made on the approval of an alternative herbicide from Bayer CropScience. Aclonifen, which has been used on the continent for more than 15 years, helps control weeds in crops of potatoes, pulses and vegetables, and looks set to become available in the UK by 2019.

It is a useful agent on a selection of broad-leaved and grass weeds, including brassica weeds like charlock, orache and polygonums as well as small nettle. The mode of action is unique, as it is applied prior to emergence. This will result in it being taken up by the weeds' cotyledons, hypocotyl and coleoptile before being translocated to their meristems. Consequently, there will be a beaching effect that stunts and kills the target.

The product stands up well independently, but many European potato farmers prefer the robust mix of a 2 litres/ha application combined with 2kg/ha Artist (metribuzin + flufenacet). Together, these provide optimal weed control results, with effective control of broad-leaved background weed as well as some effect on blackgrass.

Bayer promises to price the product competitively to encourage farmers to adopt it as their primary pre-emergence measure. It is expected to launch with full approval for potatoes, with the aim of adding peas and beans in the near future. Bayer also expect to receive applications for approvals from other crops that struggle without linuron, such as carrots, parsnips and onions.

3. New liquid nematicide for extra flexibility in controlling soil pests

There is a good chance of a novel nematicide being approved for the potato season in 2019. It is hoped that this will offer growers an alternative or even complementary option to the use of granular products for the control of nematode pests. Nematodes are the most threatening pest to UK potato crops, and can cause significant yield losses.

Agrochemical manufacturer Bayer CropScience has been publicising this development for some time, but it has now expressed confidence that approval will be granted in time for next season. It contains SDHI fungicide fluopyram, after the company stumbled across its effectiveness against nematodes. They went on to develop a bespoke product that offers an entirely new course of action for nematode control with a liquid suspension concentrate formula.

This should give farmers flexibility. It can be added to a furrow by anyone with a kit set up for this type of application, or it can be used as an overall application to soil before incorporation during the process of forming beds. Trials suggest both methods are more or less equally effective, helping to maintain canopy when potato cyst nemotode (PCN) is present, thus protecting yield and managing increases in population.

In addition to this activity on PCN, the product has been effective at reducing spraing, which is a tuber disease that is caused by TRV and spread by nematodes. Growers of short-duration crops like salads will appreciate the short harvest interval and low application rates (the maximum total dose is 0.625 litres/ha) of the product, as nematicide residues are a constant worry.

Agrochemical / Agronomy jobs can change the future

The constant changes in the regulations and societal pressures regarding pesticides mean there is a need for talented individuals to work in the agrochemical sector. Agriculture is essential for the survival of our species, but ways of farming more responsibly will always be needed to ensure our efforts at mass farming aren't harmful to the environment. The 3 products described in this article are good steps forward that will provide a lifeline to many root crop farmers, but there is still a long way to go.

If you are interested in working for the future of the human race, then agrochemical jobs could well be of interest to you. Jobs in agriculture can be incredibly fulfilling and meaningful, and Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are here to help match people with the right career in the multifaceted agriculture sector. So get in touch today, and see how you could play a key part in the future of the agrochemical industry.

You can visit Agricultural Recruitment Specialists website here: or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: