9 July 1999

Fungicide rate cuts can save cash & still deliver

By Andrew Blake

REDUCED dose fungicide trials and a chance for breeders to show how to get the best from their own varieties were new features at the rain-soaked National Institute of Agricultural Botany Varieties and Seeds Day at Cambridge.

Half and quarter dose tests of NIABs standard fungicide programme, which for the first year includes strobilurins, have already thrown up useful messages, not least the effectiveness of reduced protection under heavy disease pressure in more resistant varieties, said John Ramsbottom, head of cereals.

For the third year running yellow rust had been a significant threat, he said. "And we have got brown rust and septoria tearing in now. We are very aware that growers and advisers mix and match products and reduce rates, rightly or wrongly."

The latest replicated trial on 15 winter wheats, including some to be considered for recommendation this autumn, should indicate the most cost-effective treatment tactics for each, he said. The work is being mirrored at four other sites in collaboration with Morley Research Centre.

Breeders had a chance to show faith in their latest recommended varieties through the Variety Challenge Shield (Arable) competition, the aim being to achieve best gross margin through managed inputs.

Mr Ramsbottom stressed that the replicated plot test was confined to the single site and was intended to be a bit of fun. "But we hope it attracts attention in playing to varieties strengths as well as their weaknesses."

Full details will be included in farmers weeklys Seeds Focus (July 23). All four breeders had applied strobilurins, but there was a wide range of nitrogens for the crop which followed beans, said NIABs Richard Fenwick. Inability to choose drilling date was the main competitor quibble.