The loss of 2,4-DB means there is currently no product licensed to kill weeds, but not clover, in new leys.

This resulted in well-known clover-safe sprays such as Underclear, Legumex DB, Clovermax and Undersown being taken off the market.

Farmers have until the end of October 2021 to use up any remaining stocks.

Speaking at a Goldcrop grass seed webinar on Friday, Goldcrop’s Scott Lovell said that the only products approved for use on new grass seeds now are not clover safe.

Emergency use clearance

He said that due to the importance of clover in reducing Ireland’s reliance on chemical nitrogen, maintaining it’s green image and as a means of generating more profit for farmers Teagasc and the Federation of Agrochemical Retail Merchants have requested emergency use clearance for 2,4-DB from the Department of Agriculture.

He explained that it was taken off the market not for safety or environmental reasons, but because the registration of the active ingredient with the EU was let lapse by Nufarm, which holds the authorisation of 2,4-DB.

Many sprays that are taken off the market do so because the regulations change and the product is no longer permitted to be used.

However, Lovell says that in the case of 2,4-DB it was a commercial decision by Nufarm not to get it re-registered.

We just have to keep our fingers crossed and let the process go through

“Emergency use can be granted in the case where farmers need a spray badly and there isn’t a suitable alternative and I think 2,4-DB falls exactly into that category,” Lovell said.

“We just have to keep our fingers crossed and let the process go through, but we would be hopeful that we would have product for this year, but obviously there are no guarantees, it has to go through due process,” he said.

Farmers in a nitrates derogation are obliged to sow clover when reseeding, but there is currently no spray on the market for clover safe weed control in new leys.

He also said there can often be extra conditions attached to emergency use and they are usually only granted for short periods, such as up to four months and extra record keeping is often a requirement of use also.

On alternatives to 2,4-DB, Lovell said the indications are that the Corteva product, which has been mooted as a suitable alternative to 2,4-DB is unlikely to be available until the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Not having a suitable clover-safe spray is a serious impediment to farmers who are considering using clover to reduce their chemical nitrogen requirements.

If the chemical is granted emergency use clearance, it will likely take a number of months for chemical companies to manufacture and distribute the herbicide.