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Betanal quattro case study - Simon Shortland, East Coast

Fodder beet crops on the East Coast are providing farmers with a new and valued supplement, helping them boost stock growth rates and farm revenues in early spring.

Simon Shortland, Farmlands Gisborne Technical Field Officer who covers the East Coast region is witnessing strong growth in the planting of fodder beet, as farmers start to recognise its value for wintering sheep and beef stock on.

Simon Shortland
For the 2014 growing season our shareholders planted a total of 10Ha of Fodder Beet in the region. This year our shareholders have confirmed 140ha to-date for this coming season. I’m confident we will see continued growth in fodder beet plantings as farmers are starting to see the benefits and potential returns on investment that can be achieved

The early plantings were initiated by large landholders on the East Coast who had witnessed the success many South Island farmers had enjoyed with beets.

The key benefit farmers can see is the ability to continue to put weight on steers over the winter period, with predictions of 800 grams to a kilo in weight gain, per animal, per day, which means stock come out of winter in better condition, with farmers benefiting from those higher schedule prices.

Establishing fodder beet on the East Coast brings its own challenges in terms of resources and climatic issues to deal with. Being a new crop type, farmers sought the drilling expertise of Patrick Nicole from the Hawke’s Bay.

Simon emphasises paddock selection is critical along with soil testing. Advice from Bayer Crop Science area manager Marc Fox was also critical in helping farmers manage their spray programmes to get effective pre and post emergent weed control.

It’s critical farmers understand the importance of controlling weeds from establishment right through to canopy closure when dealing with this crop, a robust spray programme along with regular monitoring is essential to maximise yield.

Betanal quattro was the key to successful weed control at the post emergent stage.

On the East Coast we have a broad range of weeds which can make the chemical selection challenging, with Marc’s advice and the weed spectrum Bayers product Betanal quattro covers we have been able to achieve good control under challenging conditions.

He was impressed with Betanal quattro’s performance under some challenging conditions on the East Coast. Slow growing conditions, post drilling meant it was four weeks before the first Betanal quattro treatment could be applied.

Simon found despite being unable to spray again the first spray had enabled crop density to be maintained, helping keep the full spectrum of weeds at bay later on.

In one paddock we missed spraying a patch, the weeds were rampant and bulbs in that patch were a quarter of the size of those that had received spray.

He says Betanal quattro’s easy one mix formulation makes timely application easier, and the four way combination increases the spectrum of coverage, making it the obvious choice for weed control.

Its effectiveness was reinforced with the sound advice Marc offered his grower clients.

He even came up on New Year’s Eve to check a crop, something he didn’t have to do but he knew that timing is everything for weed control and wanted to check.

The dry, challenging conditions meant crop yields within paddocks varied, but overall Simon’s clients have reported averages of 20-22tDM a hectare at early June, with warm conditions ensuring growth was continuing.

Lessons are being learned all the time on crop establishment and management, and this season Simon is aiming to have crops in the ground earlier, aiming for late September- early October.

My advice is to plan your crop now, getting paddocks tested and even cultivating early to leave a stale seedbed to determine what the problem weeds will be.