Will Arable Insights Farmers cut fungicide spend this season?

Should growers consider reducing fungicide spend given the state of this year’s wheat crops?

Farmers Weekly asks our Arable Insights Farmer panel about their disease control plans.

Scotland: David Fuller-Shapcott

Fungicide spend on David Fuller-Shapcott’s surviving Tapestry and Blackstone wheat should be lower this year due to the backward nature of crops as well as a reduction in product costs.

“I would like to see it under £100/ha, although whether we achieve that will depend on the season. If we get a dry spell that’s very achievable.”

Typically, he uses a four-spray fungicide programme, but the T0 spray this year will likely be a “TLC” package of micronutrients and biostimulants rather than a fungicide designed to improve rooting and tillering.

See also: Wheat yield prompts fungicide shift on Nottinghamshire farm

“Spend has to be dictated to some extent by the value of wheat, which has plummeted since the New Year.

“It focuses our minds on what we can afford to spend, and if we think we’re going down the Inatreq route for flag leaf, we need to save a little early on,” he says.

That means a T1 spray will likely be based on a strobilurin-azole mix, potentially with multisite.

“That will give a little physiological boost to the crop, and they’re a cheap option for keeping on top of any rust issue as a consequence of the backward crops – although both Blackstone and Tapestry have good yellow rust resistance.”

While Inatreq is pencilled in for T2 that could change if it turns dry. “If septoria risk lowers, it might change the picture.”

But the T2 is unlikely to be newcomer Iblon based on price. “Iblon looks a good product but is mighty expensive, so I don’t think it will feature for us this year.”

He is, however, planning to use sap testing to better understand the nutritional status of his crops.

“I’ve done some Brix testing previously, but I may look at sap testing because the balance between plant stress and disease will be very relevant in a difficult year.

“I want to keep the crop as stress and disease free as possible, and that’s a nutritional thing that sap testing can help with.”

East Anglia: Jack Smith

While still critical, disease control is of secondary importance in crops initially this spring, with avoiding creating any more stress key until they recover from the winter, suggests Jack Smith.

“Inputs will need to be heavily tailored to crop conditions because as well as having early and late drilled crops, we also have stressed and less stressed in each situation.”

He’s planning to use micronutrition and biostimulants to nurse the crops back into a better state, with those costs coming potentially at the expense of fungicides.

The farm is growing Crusoe, Extase and Dawsum, with smaller areas of Zyatt and Champion, with the choices providing a spread of different end markets, maturity and responsiveness to fungicides.

“Disease resistance is the key characteristic we look for in varieties, but responsiveness to fungicides is becoming more of a factor in planning spray programmes.”

A four-spray fungicide programme is typical, with rust-susceptible varieties targeted with a T0 of tebuconazole.

For the main T1 and T2 timings, he’ll move into Iblon technology for one of the timings rather than relying on two Revysol-based products, as in the past.

On lower risk septoria varieties, Ascra will also be considered.

“With all our watercourses, we are restricted from using Univoq because of its buffer zone requirements.”

Boscalid might be added at T1 on eyespot-susceptible varieties, while tebuconazole will be tank-mixed if needed for yellow rust, he adds.

He is expecting that type of programme to cost about £115/ha, based on his average spend over the past three years.

“Spend will be dictated by conditions. We can’t afford to have a crop not perform.”

South West: Dougal Hosford

Minimising the use of fungicide is a key aim for Dougal Hosford, brother George and son Fred.

They’re growing varietal blends of wheat after seeing how a combination of Theodore and Extase had much less brown and yellow rust than monocultures of the same variety, even where not treated with fungicide in 2023.

This year’s feed wheat blend is four varieties: Extase, Champion, Palladium and Costello.

Dougal also grows winter and spring milling wheat with beans or clover for Wildfarmed, where no fungicides can be applied.

Lowering nitrogen inputs to 140-170kg N/ha and splitting to avoid big doses in a single pass also reduces disease risk, which then allows a reduction in fungicide to a maximum of two sprays.

Sap testing will be used to determine targeted plant nutrition, but the price, hassle and reliability of the testing has proved a hurdle in the past.

Wildfarmed’s group service should help, but at £100 for postage to service provider Novacrop in Holland, costs soon add up.

“The aim of our regenerative approach is to improve the biological health of our soils, which includes not plastering it with fungicides and other inputs because that doesn’t help soil life,” he says.

The crops are constantly monitored by Dougal and his agronomists, with fungicides applied only as necessary.

“The aim will be to use cheaper products as that’s the whole point of using a blend, but we will assess disease pressure and if we need to use a more expensive product, we will.

“If we find ourselves in a very high disease year, we wouldn’t want the crop to die in front of us.”

Who are the eight Arable Insights Farmers?




Farm size

East Anglia

Jack Smith

Haddenham, Cambridgeshire



Tamara Hall

Beverley, Yorkshire


Northern Ireland

Neill Patterson

Downpatrick, County Down


West Midlands

Rob Atkin

Uttoxeter, Staffordshire



Tom Carr

Fareham, Hampshire


East Midlands

Heather Oldfield

Kirton Drove, Lincolnshire



David Fuller-Shapcott

Kelso, Scottish Borders


South West

Dougal Hosford

Blandford, Dorset


Read more about each farm.

Northern Ireland: Neill Patterson

With well-established winter wheat, thanks to a free-draining soil type and nitrogen inputs back to normal levels, Neill Patterson is expecting to use a full fungicide programme this spring.

“Having planned to go back to full rate nitrogen with the aim of growing a good, dense lush crop, obviously disease can creep in.

So I think I’ve already committed myself to a full programme,” he says.

“While the future grain price doesn’t look great currently, yield is key and if we’re going to grow a good high-yielding crop of wheat, we’re going to have to treat it well.”

Growing old favourite Graham and newcomer Extase on the farm, yellow rust is a potential threat early on, which may require a cheap tebuconazole T0 spray.

In Northern Ireland’s wetter climate, septoria is the main threat.

Last year, Neill used a programme of Ascra + folpet followed by Verydor + folpet at T1 and T2, after being put off using Univoq with the reports of problems with sprayers blocking the previous season.

“We’ll probably use a similar programme as it worked well last year, although we will look at cost.

“I don’t think chemical prices are where they should be, given the drop in fertiliser and grain prices, after the rises last year,” he says.

North: Tamara Hall

With nearly 250ha of spring crops to establish, plus areas for Sustainable Farming Incentive and Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship, April will be a busy month for Tamara Hall at Molescroft Farm.

Although the larger proportion of spring cropping does reduce the sprayer workload, she says.

A farm policy of aiming to reduce fungicide and other input use is part of the reason for choosing to grow Extase, Typhoon and Champion, which have good disease resistance.

On the heavier land, establishment has generally been poor, with some crop failure, so surviving late drilled crops will not be treated with a T0.

However, the wheat on Wold land, while thinner than in most years, will be treated with folpet at that timing, along with a growth regulator.

Given the wet winter, there is a concern about eyespot in the Extase, which is leading to a recommendation for Tamara to use Ascra at T1, while Uniovoq is likely to [be used as] the flag- leaf fungicide. Both will give good control of septoria.

“At least on the later drilled crops we will miss out the T0, which will save us some money and bit of work.”

No budget is set for fungicide use. “I think you need to farm what is in front of you. It’s like if you set a minimum price for selling grain, and then you sell it all far too early and cheap.

“We have a lot of variation in disease levels and you have to do a lot more in some years.”

Tamara is planning to make use of sap tests in the future, after having good results using an N tester through the Kellogg’s Origins programme.

“I’m hoping to do more sap testing and use a lot less nitrogen, while improving plant health by using micronutrients and fewer fungicides as a result.

“Going forward, that’s the way I want to run the farm,” she says.

Midlands: Rob Atkin

Choosing relatively disease-resistant wheat varieties in Oxford, Graham, Typhoon and Dawsum is Rob Atkin’s first line of defence.

“Graham is perhaps a little more susceptible, but we seem to have got away with it so far.”

The typical approach on the farm is a two-spray programme.

The initial T1 is applied at a reasonably conventional timing around leaf-three emergence, but then he stretches the interval T2 to four weeks to do a “head and shoulders” application, particularly if it is dry.

“We make sure we use a decent product at a decent rate, and for the past three or four years, it has worked well, albeit in dry years. If it is wetter and more humid, we might need to change,” Rob says.

“We’re also heavy on the nutrition, keeping the plant well-fed with magnesium, manganese, boron and other trace elements, which I think keeps the plant healthier and perhaps disease at bay.”

With both decent-looking crops and poorer ones this year, the approach will be similar, but he will likely use lower rates on the crops with less potential.

In the worst surviving field, Rob suspects yield potential has dropped by 40% from a budgeted 8.75t/ha, while others are maybe down 1.25t/ha.

Currently, he expects to use similar products to last year, with T1s of Boogie Xpro Plus with or without Tucana, followed by an Inatreq-based product at T2 or a repeat application of Boogie Xpro Plus.

East Midlands: Heather Oldfield

March weather hasn’t brought much needed relief to the Oldfield’s family farm in Lincolnshire.

Where land could be travelled, some fertiliser has been applied and the spreader turned off in the patches where crop has failed.

“Crops are going backwards and are stressed, and it doesn’t really matter if they went in early or late,” Heather reports.

In cold, wet soils, crops with poor root development are going to be more vulnerable to infection, she suspects.

All the surviving wheat is Gleam, after not having an opportunity to drill the other planned variety Dawsum.

“Gleam doesn’t have the strongest disease profile, with 5.7 for septoria and 5 for yellow rust, so when we can travel, it will get everything it needs to succeed.”

That will include micronutrients as assessed through soil and leaf tissue-testing.

Heather says she will look at what nutrients are available to the crop to see what else it might need to keep it as healthy as possible, as at the moment, it is the only crop she has in the ground, apart from Stewardship. 

“We will spend accordingly, but need to be mindful of grain prices,” she adds.

Some combination of Ascra, Revystar and Univoq will be used at T1 and T2, but there will be no set budget for wheat.

She now estimates it will yield 9.5t/ha at best, rather than the minimum 10-11t/ha the farm can achieve.

South: Tom Carr

Providing fertiliser was applied to hybrid barley and wheat crops in mid-March, Southwick Estate’s Tom Carr was hoping very yellow crops would bounce back, having not lost any yield potential.

Graham and Champion are the estate’s main wheat varieties across nearly 150ha, with a small area of Extase.

Yellow rust and septoria are the key disease concerns, and he will employ a relatively firm fungicide programme.

“The potential is still there. Yes, it currently looks a bit backward and sad, but I’m hoping that will change as the weather improves and I think if we scrimp early we will regret it.

“If we’re worried about losing yield potential because of the weather, then why try to lose yield potential by not treating it properly,” he says.

“Yes, we need to keep an eye on crop price and price of fungicides, and we don’t want to go mad, but we’ll still use a relatively firm approach.”

That will include a T0 of azoxystrobin, tebuconazole and foliar nutrition mostly for yellow rust risk.

T1 and T2 plans have yet to be finalised, but neither Iblon or Univoq are likely to feature, with a preference to use tried-and-trusted products bought on price through a buying group.

“We’ve discussed Iblon with our agronomist, but I think for its price tag, we’ll let someone else trial it for now, and we’ve stayed away from Inatreq because of concern over the sprayer issues.”

Fungicide active ingredients

  • Inatreq: fenpicoxamid
  • Iblon: isoflucypram
  • Revysol: mefentrifluconazole
  • Revystar: mefentrifluconazole + fluxapyroxad
  • Boogie Xpro Plus: bixafen + prothioconazole + spiroxamine
  • Tucana: pyraclostrobin
  • Univoq: fenpicoxamid + prothioconazole
  • Ascra: bixafen + fluopyram + prothioconazole
  • Verydor: fluxapyroxad + mefentrifluconazole

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