3 growers weigh up the cost benefit of new fungicide

Late-drilled backwards crops, pressure on farm budgets and changes to the chemical line-up are all on the minds of farmers and agronomists as they start to contemplate their cereal disease control stategies for 2020.

With the weather doing its best to prevent field work and political uncertainty continuing to cloud decision-making, there are also concerns about the loss of multi-site chlorothalonil and the need to future-proof fungicide programmes.

Against this background, BASF has introduced its long-awaited Revystar, containing new azole mefentrifluconazole in co-formulation with its SDHI fluxapyroxad (as found in Adexar).

See also: Advice on draining and restructuring waterlogged soils

With good results being seen in Adas trials where the new fungicide was tested at T1 and T2, as well as at both timings, Revystar showed a yield benefit of 0.2t/ha across all 47 trial sites, reports Daniel Kindred of Adas.

Actives

  • Adexar – epoxiconazole + fluxapyroxad
  • Amistar Opti – azoxystrobin + chlorothalonil
  • Ascra – bixafen + fluopyram + prothioconazole
  • Aviator – bixafen + prothioconazole
  • Elatus Era – benzovindiflupyr + prothioconazole
  • Revystar – fluxapyroxad + mefentrifluconazole

That went up to 0.27t/ha where chlorothalonil was omitted from the programme and rose to 0.39t/ha where the new product was used at both the T1 and T2 timings.

“We’ve seen crops staying greener for longer and reduced septoria severity, so it has performed well,” he says.

Farmers given the chance to test the new fungicide on their own farms have been revealing their results.

Edward Vipond, Troston Farms, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

  • 1,500ha
  • Winter wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet, winter rye, forage crops, spring beans
Edward Vipond in his field

Edward Vipond

Cost of production is a key consideration for Suffolk farm manager Edward Vipond, as he contemplates the start of the spraying season and any place for new chemistry.

Given the future threat to the Basic Payment Scheme, his spend on crop inputs is becoming ever more important and has come into even sharper focus this year, following the prolonged wet conditions.

In such a difficult year, some of his winter cereal crops haven’t established as well as he would like.

“Crops are all over the place in terms of development and it’s hard to predict what their yield potential is.”

Having completed three years of trials as part of the Real Results programme and seen good results with new product Revystar in 2019, he has little doubt that the use of such an effective fungicide at the right time will help.

Timing

“Timing is the conundrum,” he adds. “Certainly, on late-drilled crops, there wouldn’t seem to be a case for including an expensive product at T1.”

A yield increase of 0.32t/ha, where Revystar was included at both T1 and T2 last year – compared to his farm standard programme of a pyraclostrobin/prothioconazole mix followed by Ascra at flag leaf – was significant and showed him what the new fungicide can do.

“It was a good result, but I need to see the product for more than one season,” he says.

Cost

“I also need to know what it’s going to cost, as order time is fast approaching. Spending nearly £50/litre on a fungicide is a big decision.”

Last year’s four-spray fungicide programme at Troston Farms came in at £96.18/ha and Mr Vipond admits that he likes to be edgy when he devises the plan.

“In general, I’m not a believer in using an SDHI at T1. The season, as well as crop development, dictates what we do on our hugely variable soil types.”

He predicts that Revystar will be feature in his 2020 fungicide programme at some stage, but stresses that product decisions will be made on a crop-by-crop and field-by-field basis.

“I can’t ignore the cost of production figure and it’s impossible to make an informed decision without a firm price for the chemical.”

Toby Hogsbjerg, Wicken Farm Company, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

  • 1,000ha
  • Winter cereals, peas, sugar beet and potatoes, rented land for veg
Toby Hogsbjerg in his field

Toby Hogsbjerg © BASF

A steady reduction in the use of farm inputs through the adoption of better farming techniques is part of the on-going plan at the Wicken Farm Company, in line with its sustainability objectives.

For farm manager Toby Hogsbjerg, deciding whether high- or low-potential cereal crops need the most urgent attention is a priority this month, as he aims to develop a cost-effective and targeted fungicide programme.

With root crops in the rotation, establishing winter cereals while 560mm of rain has fallen since September has been a struggle.

To date, he has managed to get 350ha of winter wheat and 90ha of winter barley in the ground.

“It means we’ve got every crop stage on the farm, including some February-drilled winter wheat. That’s a new situation for me.”

New chemistry

As another member of the Real Results group, Mr Hogsbjerg has also had the chance to compare the use of new chemistry with his existing farm programme, but didn’t see a significant difference in 2019 from including Revystar twice in a slightly compromised trial.

“We’ll be doing it again this year,” he says. “For us, it’s all about finding the most appropriate treatment for the right money.”

His usual strategy is to build the crop through its early growth stages and take advantage of the fact that north Norfolk tends to be a low-disease area.

“If it carries on being wet and we have a catchy season, products such as Revystar could have a useful place,” he says.

“We don’t like to rely on curative activity, for resistance reasons, but there are times when a fire engine treatment is required.”

Budget

Mr Hogsbjerg is reluctant to spend more than £100/ha on fungicides but is planning to make good use of biostimulants on late-drilled crops to promote rooting on light soils.

“We do need to try to keep within our budget, so every fungicide will be assessed for its contribution to margin as well as yield.”

Hannah Darby, TE Darby & Sons, Huntingdon

  • 360ha across three farms
  • Wheat, sugar beet, oats, barley and pulse crops
Hannah Darby in her field

Hannah Darby © BASF

Margin and profitability have come under increased scrutiny since Hannah Darby returned home to farm in 2014, with fungicide performance being assessed as part of this process.

Information from on-farm trials has been central to this, with both YEN and Real Results trials results being used to help with decision-making and keep the business progressing.

This year, just 40% of the planned winter wheat area has been drilled, some of which has already been written off.

Where possible, spring wheat will be drilled instead, so that there is minimal disruption to the rotation.

As part of her involvement in Real Results, she also took the opportunity of trying out some Revystar last year, including it at the T2 timing, but sticking with Adexar at T1.

She compared that approach to the use of competitor products of Aviator at T1 and Elatus Era T2, with an SDHI component included at both timings.

“We didn’t see a significant difference in yield, although there was an improvement in green area index with the Revystar treatment,” she recalls.

“The rest of the farm’s wheat had Amistar Opti at T1 and Adexar + chlorothalonil at T2 and yielded better than the trial field.”

Budget

While her fungicide budget is not set in stone, she is not keen to exceed £100/ha, even on milling wheats.

“Our farms are up to 20 miles apart so the rainfastness of Revystar is attractive, especially if spraying gets disrupted and we have a catchy season.”

However, she would like to have more information on whether the product should be used at T1 or at T2, as she predicts that its price will prohibit it being applied twice.

“At the moment, we’ve still got Adexar,” she says.

“That may be the most cost-effective product for our situation.”   

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