Wheat will not be a viable crop in Ireland by 2022, warn tillage experts
Wheat production will be "totally uneconomical" in Ireland by 2022 unless drastic measures are taken to develop new crop varieties that are more resistant to disease, tillage experts have warned.
Despite global predictions of all-time highs in wheat and maize production by the end of the year, fungicides once capable of controlling wet weather wheat disease, are now proving to be virtually useless.
Dr Fiona Doohan, senior lecturer, UCD school of biology and environmental science, says some cereals are becoming dangerously immune to chemicals that destroy Septoria, a fungi that causes multiple yellow leaf spots, and she fears compounds used to kill the disease are running out.
"In wheat the problem with disease is becoming so momentous that the chemicals available are running out"
"If we don't find new varieties of the crop, in five or six years' time it will be totally uneconomical to grow wheat in Ireland, that is the reality of it because the disease will be so bad," she said.
Dr Doohan, says lack of diversification in Irish cereals is contributing to the problem and heaping financial pressure on growers.
"It's all about the cost to the farmer. If your product is more susceptible to diseases then you will need a lot more chemical on it and ultimately your net profit is much lower than if you went with another variety."
Tillage advisor, Pat Minnock, reiterated these concerns. He stressed that the Irish weather system is also hampering control of the disease. "Septoria is a big problem and chemicals are struggling to control strains. We suffer more than most countries so developing better resistant varieties and chemicals is crucial ," he said.