Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 15 December 2018

Loss of fungicide could devastate cereal sector as Minister says farmer health main priority

Teagasc research show that where chlorothalonil is not available average net margin is down by over 50pc in wheat and 65pc in barley.
Teagasc research show that where chlorothalonil is not available average net margin is down by over 50pc in wheat and 65pc in barley.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Minister for Agriculture has said that farmers' health of 'primary' importance as fungicide faces being banned by EU over carcinogenic fears.

A new report carried out by Teagasc has found that the loss of critical fungicide chlorothalonil to the industry could devastate the Irish cereal sector.

Currently chlorothalonil plays a vital role in disease control in Irish cereal production systems and Teagasc research show that where chlorothalonil is not available average net margin is down by over 50pc in wheat and 65pc in barley.

While previously it has been used as an anti-resistance strategy to prolong the efficacy of the main fungicides used to prevent wet weather diseases, in recent years it has played an increasing important and direct role in disease control and maintaining potential yields.

However the EU Commission has proposed that the approval for chlorothalonil should not be renewed.

That proposal will be voted on, by the Member States, in either October or December. If approval is not renewed, usage will have to be ceased within 18 months.

The Minster for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said that his Department is acutely aware of the importance of chlorothalonil (the active substance in the product referred to) to the cereal producing sector in Ireland, not only as a primary disease control tool but more critically as a resistance management tool, protecting other chemical families from the development of pathogen resistance.

He said a key issue is a change in the classification for carcinogenicity proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based on the outcome of the technical peer review consultation that it held with Member State experts.

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“The ultimate decision on the appropriate classification will be based on an assessment that the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will undertake when a dossier is submitted to it.

“It is important that this process provides for all relevant information to be taken into account in a final decision on classification.

“The ability of growers to use chlorothalonil products safely, without endangering themselves, consumers or the environment, and in compliance with regulatory approval criteria will be of primary importance in this process,” he said.

Where chlorothalonil is not available the Teagasc report estimates the most likely scenario for e-Profit Monitor farmers is an average Net Margin reduction of over 50pc in wheat and 65pc in barley, with growers achieving national average yields at or just above break even. Figures are based on the Teagasc e-Profit Monitor 2016-2017.

It found that cereal production will only be economic on the highest yielding sites with low costs of production as the risks of economic loss will increase dramatically on other sites.

The report also concluded that Irish growers will lose competitiveness as it is anticipated that other regions outside Ireland will not suffer the same losses, and consequently grain prices will not rise in Ireland to offset yield losses.

“In the medium term the introduction of new fungicides will be welcome and increase disease control options, however in the absence of chlorothalonil a more rapid loss of efficacy of these fungicides is expected due to high disease pressure,” the report said.

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