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Good soil health key for retaining herbicides

Growers are being urged not to be complacent when it comes to metazachlor and quinmerac usage this autumn, and to adopt good soil management practices in order to keep these important active ingredients on the market.

With the issue of metazachlor and quinmerac reaching raw surface waters and - at times - exceeding drinking water levels, Rob Gladwin, representative of the Metazachlor Matters stewardship initiative, stresses the importance of adopting ICM techniques, in order to retain access to metazachlor and quinmerac.

“Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to weed management, and significant weed problems won’t disappear overnight. As a result, there will always be a place for residual herbicides, but there are a limited number of alternative control products available.

“Utilising a well-planned ICM strategy can lessen the need for unplanned herbicide use, and encourage activities on the farm that support the principles of the stewardship initiative. Encouraging farmers to apply metazachlor and quinmerac sensibly - at the correct dose rates of 750g/ha and 250g/ha respectively for winter oilseed rape, and well in advance of the 1 October deadline for drained land in drinking water safeguard zones - will all help towards retaining these key actives on the marketplace for seasons to come.”

Steve Townsend, independent adviser at Soil First Farming, stresses that what is good for soils, is good for stewardship.

“The biggest influence we have on soil health is the provision of organic matter in the many forms of carbon it provides. Improving carbon levels can support crop establishment, particularly oilseed rape, by allowing the crop to grow fast and compete with weeds.

“Good soil management can result in a much better tilth and seed bed conditions in the short term, allowing for improvements in residual chemical activity. While in the long term, better soil structure facilitates soil stability and water infiltration, which both help to keep the pesticide in the field,” he explains.

“Increased carbon levels can be achieved through implementation of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) practices, such as reducing tillage or ploughing depth, which reduces carbon oxidation losses from the soil.

“Organic matter, or carbon, in the soil should be treated like a bank account - you have to put more carbon in each year than you take out if you want to see your soil health and structure improve.”