WITH fungicide resistance considered the next major threat in Australian grain production, global crop protection company Adama has gone on the front foot, encouraging the industry to develop an integrated approach to disease management.
Last week the company staged workshops in Esperance and at Curtin University, Perth, which were keenly attended by a strong contingent of the State’s agricultural advisers and agronomists.
Guest speakers included Geelong-based Nick Poole who is the managing director of the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), and Dr Fran Lopez-Ruiz, fungicide resistance group leader at the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) at Curtin University in WA.
The CCDM is a joint venture between the university and the Grains Research and Development Corporation and only recently opened new state-of-the-art facilities.
Adama WA market development manager Bevan Addison said the industry only needed to look at Europe where a heavy reliance on fungicides had created resistance issues due to lack of good management in the early stages.
Mr Addison said in WA, an intensive cereal rotation, due to limited rotational options, contributed to the increased likelihood of disease pressure and use of fungicides.
Dr Lopez-Ruiz updated the workshops on the different diseases showing resistance in a range of crops across Australia, including immediate concerns for powdery mildew and septoria blotch in cereals and recently with spot form net blotch in barley near Esperance.
He said the industry had traditionally been slow to respond to reduced fungicide efficacy and he encouraged adoption of integrated disease management strategies whenever possible, including selecting resistant crop varieties; rotating fungicide modes of action; selecting fungicide mixtures with different modes of action; as well as testing stubble or fresh leaf samples.
Mr Addison said there was a requirement for more widespread testing and the CCDM facility was now available to the industry.
Mr Poole discussed the development of disease and resistance over the life of a crop, spraying applications and the particular timing of treatments for best disease control, and he provided an update on fungicide modes of action, their activity and different disease targets.
He said relevant disease levels, crop growth stage, crop conditions and fungicide timing windows all needed to be considered to assist correct spraying decisions.
“Making the most money out of fungicide and getting the best disease control can be two different things,’’ Mr Poole said.
He undertakes independent work for Adama as part of its ongoing development program.
“A lot of guys want to put fungicides in with herbicides, but sometimes you may get better impact from an in-furrow treatment,” Mr Poole said.
“With some diseases, the emergence of the ‘money leaves’ on the main stem and getting fungicide applications in that window will give best results.’’
With resistance, there can be confusion between herbicide and fungicide resistance and while it is often considered that increasing application rates is a good measure against herbicide resistance, Mr Poole said research data did not support this in the case of fungicide resistance.
“Increasing the rate, leading to better control, might be desirable, but it’s not necessarily an anti-resistance measure when it comes to fungicide resistance.’’
Mr Poole said the fact there were fewer active ingredients available to the industry meant they would come under increasing pressure, and he encouraged advisers and consultants to “keep on top’’ of active ingredients and loadings.
Different active ingredients have different levels of resistance risk, with some, such as DeMethylation Inhibitors (DMI) fungicides, only slowly becoming less effective, while others, such as strobilurin fungicides, develop resistance and become completely resistant quickly.
Mr Addison said Adama would continue to work closely with industry and invest in the training of key influencers in an effort to help sustain the limited range of fungicides used in Australia and provide solutions to growers.
“Adama has a suite of products that can provide solutions at most points in the season, however, as an industry, we need to develop integrated long-term strategies around fungicide use from seeding right through the life of the crop,’’ Mr Addison said.
“The company is looking globally for alternative fungicide options and is constantly screening active ingredients and mixes that will suit the local disease spectrum and cropping systems in Australia.’’
Dr Lopez-Ruiz said there also was an opportunity for companies to review existing chemistries and the recycling of compounds, which was another strong focus area for Adama.
Mr Addison said Adama was continuing to invest in ongoing development of older active ingredients, recently illustrated by the release of its high load propiconazole product, Bumper 625, which now allows for mixing of propiconazole fungicides more readily and with greater crop safety.
“It allows growers a one-pass solution, whereas previously with older formulations, they were very wary of crop scorch,” Mr Addison said.
He said it had two and a half times the loading with less solvent, meaning it had a lower use rate and much lower solvent application, providing benefits to growers and also to the environment, with less solvent, drum disposal and transport.’
Mr Addison said when developing a dual mode of action product, the company was striving to achieve the ideal ratio of high and low risk fungicides to help prevent unnecessary pressure on the higher risk fungicides, like strobilurin.