Clinton Carroll

Clinton Carroll - Wairarapa

Betanal quattro delivers beet crop success.

Fodder beet is a relatively new feed option for Wairarapa dairy farmers, one that Clinton Carroll of Wairarapa Weedsprayers has had to learn a lot about in recent years.

“We used to just have a few fairly scattered patches of beets go in each year, all up only about probably 30 hectares. However, last year the area really increased, last spring we would have sprayed between 130-150ha of beet crops,” Clinton says.

As a feed alternative, fodder beet has had an increased profile and promotion from seed companies, and South Island farmers have paved the way to highlight the size of crops possible, and benefits from wintering with them.

“I think farmers here have been holding back a bit just to see how they go, and now they know, they have gone for it.”

With yields of up to 25tDM/ha beets are appealing, but they are not the cheapest crop to establish, and require significant planning, preparation around critical timing.

A key part is seed bed preparation. The most successful crops Clinton sees are the ones where, after initial spraying and cultivation, the seedbed is left for 4-6 weeks before sowing.

“A ‘stale’ seedbed provides time for any particularly persistent weeds to re-emerge, and be dealt with, usually with another pass of glyphosate prior to sowing.”

Last year for the first time Clinton used the new Bayer Crop Science weed spray Betanal quattro, a “four in one” formulation that delivers simpler mixing, faster application and effective control across a broad spectrum of problematic weeds.

“Our previous sprays for beet crops involved a triple mix of three separate spray types that took a long time to mix up. They come in 5 L containers and I could end up having to mix 12 containers in one tank, it could take almost an hour to mix it.”

But the work did not stop there. Clinton would then have to triple rinse the containers before they are recycled.

“We are also limited by how much spray chemical we can carry on our truck, and usually we could not carry enough containers anyway. We would often have to return to pick up more for the next job, it just meant more time, travel and cost.”

Betanal quattro proved not only easy to use and mix, but also highly effective in beet crop weed control.

“We would apply the Betanal quattro at the first cotyledon stage to knock out those early weeds that would get a foot hold.”  

Problem weeds Betanal has proven particularly effective against in the Wairarapa include fat hen, nettle, willow weed and wild turnip.

The second application of Betanal was dependent upon growth rates, but typically followed seven to 10 days later.

Clinton found Betanal to be highly compatible with a number of sprays including Versatill, which he would sometimes mix it with at second application to knock out problem thistles.

“We also combined pretty much all the usual insecticides that we use with it, and there were no problems there either.”

As a contractor he appreciated the “one mix” formulation, it was more likely to be held in stock by retailers who sometimes would struggle to have all three of the individual sprays available, particularly over the Christmas-New Year period when it was often required.

“I think that also makes Betanal more appealing to farmers doing spraying themselves, they know it’s only one mix they need to buy.”

Clinton says his clients have commented this year’s beet crops appear cleaner, and report few problems with re-emerging weeds. 

He attributes that not only the Betanal’s effectiveness, but also to the support of Bayer CropScience regional manager Jeff Smith.

“Jeff has spent a lot of time noting how crops are doing. Four years ago when not a lot was grown, Jeff would observe how they were doing and gave us a lot of advice about timing, and that has been really invaluable in getting the best out of Betanal, and the beet crops.”

With good spray and good advice on board, the other essential for a successful beet crop has been good timing. It’s a message Clinton will be placing extra emphasis upon this year.

“Planning ahead so you can have that six week ‘stale’ seed bed plays a big part in getting the extra yield. That really offsets the relatively high cost of establishing a beet crop which is not cheap about $2700 a hectare.”

He estimates having that period to deal to re-emerging weeds can help push an extra 10% yield into the crop, helping make it a highly economic supplement delivering about 25tDM/ha, at a cost of 9-10c/kgDM.

He also urges farmers considering sowing beets to start thinking now about who they want to engage as a contractor.

“From our point of view we cannot drop everything to go and spray a crop we know nothing about, or have had no contact with the farmer.”

For beets a good level of communication between seed rep’, contractor and farmer is critical.

“The margins for timing are not as generous as they might be for, say, brassicas. With beet a week delayed can make a big difference to the crop yield and quality.”

Having one mix certainly saved some valuable time, and cut down on the number of containers to deal with.

Gareth Isbister, Otago

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