Gareth Isbister

Gareth Isbister, Otago

Betanal hits dry land beet weeds hard

The dry land country of North Otago is not the easiest to grow supplementary crops upon, but Gareth Isbister believes he may have found a reliable supplement option with fodder beet.

This year is the second he has grown the supplement, with 30 ha being fed off to beef cattle, dairy heifers and dry cows over winter. It is well up from the 8 ha planted for last year, and he already has plans to ramp the area up further still to nearer 50 ha, earmarked for cultivation this spring.

This winter had him grazing a range of livestock classes on his beet crop over winter, including 360 dry dairy cows, 250 yearling heifers and 100 two year old heifers.

The yields on the dryland farm varied this year from 14tDM/ha to about 20t, a range Gareth is happy with, given the farm only received 30mm of rain between June 1 last year and Christmas time.

Sowing beets on dry land country may seem risky, but Gareth has found beets come supported with good advice to both farmers and contractors planting them. He opts to manage spray application himself once they are in the ground.

This year he used Betanal quattro for the first time as his key weed control herbicide for the beet crops.

“We have got our own sprayer and it’s also a very busy time of the year so using Betanal quattro for the first time made life a lot easier this season.

“Last season we had to mix two chemicals together before spraying. It just took that much extra time, and we are quite an exposed property, you don’t want to waste too much time mixing when conditions are ideal for spraying. You need to make the most of the time you have got.

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

This season’s spray season was stretched out over several weeks, thanks to a patchy start to the spring sowing season.

“It meant we had to delay spraying for longer than we would normally do, thanks to the crop being quite slow to emerge.”

His main focus for the Betanal quattro spray programme was fat hen and wire weed.

“The trade off was to hit it earlier, rather than let it get too established before going in.”

Despite the difficult start with low sunshine hours, cool conditions delaying seed germination, Gareth found Betanal was highly effective in controlling those problem weeds, matching its simple “one can” formulation he welcomed.

He is more than happy with the clean beet crop that has resulted, and Betanal will be his “go to” option for next season’s crop.

Now herbicide control is well in hand, Gareth says his main focus for the next beet crop is good seedbed establishment.

“You need a good fine seedbed, which can be difficult to establish on some of our steeper paddocks, and I think a strip tillage cultivation machine may be the best option to achieve that.”

Meantime he is pleased with the intake his winter grazers are enjoying on this season’s crop.

“It is a very good quality feed, and the cows seem quite content on it, and it will be interesting to see how the calves go on it this year.”

We have got a good clean high yielding crop, the Betanal has done its job well, being easily mixed as a single solution spray, and its dealt with those problem weeds very effectively

Neil Rowe - Mamakus

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