17 July 1998

Fungicides run out as demand hits new high

SUPPLIES of some potato blight fungicides are drying up as growers tackle one of the most intense periods of blight pressure in living memory. Up to half the countrys crops have some symptoms, notes one adviser.

Early infection, prolonged wet weather and late-sown crops are making control even harder than last year. Spray intervals have been tightened to as little as three days in some cases, putting product suppliers under huge pressure.

"Everyone – manufacturers, distributors and farmers – has been caught out," says Paul Singleton of distributor Profarma. "Farmers have been trying desperately to stop blight in luxuriant growth." Unusually eastern growers are having the biggest difficulties, he notes.

"Four products, Tattoo, Curzate, Riposte and Trustan are sold out. There may be some stocks with distributors, but manufacturers say there is no more at the moment. Other products like Fubol, Dithane and Adagio are OK," he says.

The trend for manufacturers to adopt "just-in-time" delivery procedures and the reluctance of distributors and growers to carry excess stock is partly responsible, explains Mr Singleton.

The company has received only two-thirds of its allocation of Shirlan (fluazinam) though it expects more.

Early tin use

Tin-based products are being used earlier than usual. "Manufacturers dont normally expect to have a lot of tin available in June and July," says Mr Singleton.

"We have got a reasonable amount, but there is a shortage in the industry. Next availability is in late July/early August, though there are stocks at some distributors."

"If tin gets short wed get nervous," says Simon Bowen technical director of Anglian Produce. Up to half the countrys crops have occasional blight, but half-rate tin with Curzate (cymoxanil + mancozeb) appears to be holding the disease at bay, he notes.

"There are alternatives, but some of the more critical products are getting short. Invader is pretty much gone and Riposte is sold out." Blight already showing up in late-sown crops is a particular worry, he adds.

In general, tighter spray programmes and use of eradicants such as tin earlier are helping contain the disease, maintains David Stormonth of distributor Brown Butlin. "In the main we havent had any problems. With Shirlan and Curzate we are working hard to match the supply to us with demand from growers."

"Supplies are very tight right across the range – more so than last year," says Graham Philips of southern merchant Bartholomews. "Many people are using tin already and are going to be struggling to get control. Its touch and go."

Antony Goulds for Cyanamid, manufacturer of Invader (dimethomorph + mancozeb), admits that anticipating demand when blight hits three weeks early, as this year, is not easy. "We didnt get it 100% right." That said the company has produced at least 100% more product than it did for last season and a new more sophisticated distribution system is in place to get it to growers faster, he stresses.

Traditional early

John Austin for Du Pout says Trustan (cymoxanil + mancozeb + oxadixyl), traditionally used early-season, sold out two weeks ago. But Curzate (cymoxanil + mancozeb) is still being made.

"We are endeavouring to supply to customers forecasts, but it has been a really exceptional year. Demand has been three to four weeks ahead of normal."

Blight fungicides.

——————-

* Abnormal season & demand.

* Tighter spray intervals.

* Tin being used earlier.

* Just-in-time system effect.

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BLIGHT FUNGICIDES

&#8226 Abnormal season & demand.

&#8226 Tighter spray intervals.

&#8226 Tin being used earlier.

&#8226 Just-in-time system effect.

Best practice wins through. Ian Sanday, manager of the 156ha Rodbaston College Farm at Penkridge, Staffs receives the 1998 Nitram Award for Best Fertiliser Practice from NFU deputy president, Tony Pexton, at last weeks Royal Show. The award is staged by Terra Nitrogen UK in association with farmers weekly, FWAG and the NFU. Careful integration of organic manures into the overall fertiliser policy particularly impressed the judges.