It’s easy to poke a little fun at crop protection product names. From the memorable and/or catchily-named to the downright impossible to remember – usually some horrible code – you probably have a favourite, or one you could never get your head around how to say!
It’s just one of the reasons why we created our Impostercides game – exactly how easy is it to spot the real thing? Haven’t played it yet? Go here…
But there is a serious side to this.
Firstly, fake (i.e. illegal counterfeit) pesticides are real. At least 'real' in the sense they exist. While, fortunately, we don’t have that many issues with counterfeit pesticides in the UK, it's still very important for all growers to be on the lookout for them on their farm. Not only can they potentially damage your crops, but also possibly your health. Because they are counterfeit, there is just no telling what's in the can. For more on counterfeit products, read this excellent summary from the European Crop Protection Association.
But there is another type of imitator – that of a generic competitor. These products are definitely legal, and have been through the required registration process. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are identical to the original product they are based upon.
While, undoubtedly, there are some good examples of generic products available, there are also some which haven’t been as successful in the field– those that are not as effective against their target weed, pest or diseases, or those that are not formulated to mix or spray as well. Such situations could cause the grower to spend more time, or the loss of return on investment might outweigh the savings achieved by buying a generic in the first place.
At Bayer, the claims we make on our product labels are based on data generated through thorough testing in field trials (and reviewed by the regulator) before any product is brought to market. That thorough testing continues after the product goes on sale too – each year, for example, we commission more than 50 independently run black-grass trials aimed at providing technical advice for farmers and agronomists. These take place at challenging sites across the country so that products and programmes are thoroughly tested, and repeated year-on-year, so farmers can get an accurate picture of how it will work in their region and what timings and partner products to use.
So perhaps one question to ask when considering whether to use a generic product is: what trials evidence is there that this product will work as claimed?
Another factor worth considering is the availability of future solutions for farms and what investments need to be made to find them. Buying a branded R&D-manufactured product typically means that you are investing in that company’s research and development programme. Bayer, for example, invests around 10% of the sale price of its products into future research - more than any of our competitors. That research might well end up in finding a brand new fungicide active substance to tackle Septoria, or, as might be arriving in 2019 (registration permitting), a new nematicide to control potato cyst nematodes in potatoes.
Certainly, finding a new black-grass herbicide was important to the 300 farmers we surveyed last year: 92% felt that would be of great value to them.
Another factor identified in that survey as being valuable was access to advice, whether that is from online content, or from contact with representatives from the company. It’s something we pride ourselves on at Bayer – we have an increasingly diverse and detailed amount of technical information available on our blog, and even more importantly an excellent team of commercial technical managers based across the country, who are available to discuss how to use our products, and provide wider expertise on how to successfully protect crops from weeds, pests and diseases. You can contact them here.
Our key grass-weed herbicide, Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican), is now off-patent, and generic competitors entered the market in autumn 2015.
It’s a good example of an R&D-manufactured product up against, in some cases, good generic alternatives. Yet, our trials have consistently shown that Liberator out-performs the generic alternatives, on that most important of grass-weeds, black-grass.
And that’s hugely important when every % control matters in both reducing weed seed return as well as maximising yield in the current season. Just a few percent difference in control can change a black-grass population from being under control to one out of control or vice-versa. So with products like Liberator it makes sense to maximise efficacy, as well as enjoy all the other benefits of buying from Bayer.
Mean of 14 trials 2016 – 2018; Products applied pre-em. to peri-em (BBCH12); Mean UTC head count = 201/m2