Make resistance management a fungicide priority

File photo
File photo
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

Crop spraying is well underway on some farms with others yet to start. Recent reports and water quality data indicate that arable farmers are doing a good job in avoiding pesticide contamination of watercourses.

The principal management tools being used are the maintenance of buffer zones, the use of low drift nozzles and the use of STRIPE (Surface Water Tool for Reducing the Impact of Pesticides in the Environment).

The minimum buffer zones are specified on product labels and cannot be reduced unless using low drift technology or reducing pesticide rates.

Most nozzles on professional sprayers are classified for 75pc drift reduction, while some are classified for 90pc reduction and enable the user to reduce the buffer width.

Both the 75pc and 90pc types offer superior placement of pesticide on the target and reduce drift considerably. Older sprayers generally do not have low drift nozzles unless the sprayer was serviced in recent years.

Much of that servicing was done when sprayers underwent their compulsory test in 2016. Sprayers which have not been tested and certified must not be used.

Only trained professional users are allowed to use professional pesticides. If your sprayer is not certified or if you have not completed the training you should employ a qualified contractor to spray.

Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers three times into the sprayer. It is important to behave responsibly with pesticides as any misuse may lead to environmental damage and create a poor image for agriculture.

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Part of responsible use lies with the quality of water we use with out pesticides. As most pesticides perform better in water at a pH of 5-6 you should use a water conditioner such as Spray Plus or X-change in water with high levels of bicarbonates, indicated by high pH water. Rain water is generally satisfactory but many rivers and most boreholes have high pH water.

Under Cross Compliance farmers are obliged to leave a minimum of two metres of uncultivated ground between their crop and watercourses identified on the iNet 1:50,000 mapping layer. That buffer strip can be grazed or topped but crops cannot be harvested.

Last year's exemption from the three-crop rule due to weather conditions left some farmers under the impression the requirement no longer exists.

However, the three-crop rule is still with us, as is the requirement for EFAs (Ecological Focus Areas). If you have difficulty in meeting the minimum 5pc EFA you may designate field margins as EFA provided that you have maintained a 2m uncultivated buffer strip.

Resistance management

Resistance management is a major component of fungicide selection.

Disease prevention/control programmes must focus on presence/absence of disease closely followed by varietal resistance.

Then selection of two products, effective on the target disease, from two different fungicide groupings. Chlorothalonil, the mainstay of most resistance strategies, is still available this year.

Loss of approval prior to an alternative, equally effective fungicide, could have a massive impact on barley and wheat production in this country.

Despite all the negative talk on the EU regulations and rigorous proofs required on both existing and new chemistry, most agrochemical companies expect to have new actives on the market within the next three years.

What we need now is the EU to take that extra step and prohibit all imports from outside countries that do not comply with our standards.

Finally, the loss of some long-term rented tillage lands has forced some farmers into reclaiming neglected/marginal lands. The ideal time for doing such work may well be after completing sowing of spring crops.

However, Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, restricts the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction by other means of vegetation growing on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from March 1 to August 31.

PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA

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