Chemical Care: Planning for pre-emergence herbicides

Planning is key when it comes to pre-emergence herbicides. To get the most bang for your buck, you’ve got to plan precisely when to get them on the turf so that they’ll work at an optimal level. The same holds true for purchasing them. If you want the most for your money, it pays to plan ahead. When it comes to 2009, a year that most economic experts are already calling “challenging,” even small savings are going to have large impact.

Bob Goglia, Syngenta Professional Products’ turf market manager for lawn and landscape, sports turf and sod farms, identified three key areas where there are opportunities to strategize and save: packaging, performance and purchasing plans.

You’ve probably gotten used to purchasing chemicals in the typical 21⁄2-gallon containers. This one-size-fits-all method of packaging, however, does not offer the most in efficient design. You have to keep, store, or at the very least, sort through numerous containers. Then there’s the triple-rinsing of all of them before disposal. Or maybe you don’t need 21⁄2 gallons and don’t want to store the unused portion after use. Improvements in package design could boost your operational efficiency and, ultimately, save time, resulting in increased productivity and dollars.

“When we began to look at packaging, we thought about the customer and how they were using the product,” Goglia says. “We don’t just design for design’s sake – it’s all customer-driven.”

For liquid chemicals, this meant offering a 10-gallon LinkPak in a square, one-piece mold that won’t leak and features a spigot for flow control – less mess, less rinsing. On the flip side, it also meant offering a 1-gallon jug for smaller application jobs, offering packaging that is color-coded and easily identifiable, and adding a see-through strip to keep your inventory evaluation on track.

“It’s just another way to ensure consistency and eliminate mistakes,” Goglia says.

On the granular side of chemical control, package design is looking to bulk up. Instead of 10-pound bags of granular material, Syngenta is exploring offering an 80-pound bag-in-a-box option that also focuses on customer use.

“If the average customer is using three pounds in a sprayer, after three truckloads, they’ll have to open more bags. But 80 pounds could get them through the week. Plus, no more bags falling over, so you have a more stable package to scoop out of.”

With more options like these finding their way into the market, he recommends you think about how you prepare your gear before sending crews out for a day’s work. If you are constantly spending time opening packaging just to prepare for the day, look for quantity. If you find that it’s more convenient to use pre-measured, smaller amounts, you’ll want to stick to the smaller quantities.

Best of all, the new packaging options are usually not more expensive. They are a value-added element to products. So what you save in efficiency is not offset by higher prices. In fact, in most instances, buying bigger will save you money just as it would if you were buying bulk at a price warehouse. “There is a drop in price because the per-pound packaging costs go down,” Goglia says.

“When you’re talking pre-emergents, performance has to be number one on your list of priorities,” Goglia says. “It’s the one application that every customer gets. It’s the cornerstone of your program and the beginning of a customer relationship. If you get this right, you can expect a follow-up call for more.”

With everything on the line, Goglia recommends looking for a supplier who will stand behind their products. These marketing strategies essentially state that if you use a product according to the label, the herbicide will control the weeds listed on the label. In situations where effective control is not obtained, the manufacturer typically will pay for the cost (or a portion of the cost) to re-treat the area. “If you don’t get the results you want, we pick up the costs for re-treatment – up to $80 an acre,” Goglia says. “It’s a good cost-share with the customer.”

Purchasing plans
Cost assurance is critical as we head into 2009. There is no doubt that rising fuel prices and unpredictable fertilizer costs have impacted business over the past few years. The uncertainty of it all makes planning almost impossible. That’s why Goglia recommends searching for flexible purchasing plans as you explore chemical options for the coming year.

“Early ordering can get you the best prices,” Goglia says. If you underestimate the amount you need it’s typically not a problem. “You can continue to order until July and still get your early order rebate. So you reap the benefit through the season. It helps ensure profitability and provides for a stable purchasing relationship.”

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