Cheap fungicide programmes produced top margins for the AHDB winners of ADAS’ 2020 Wheat Fungicide Margin Challenge, which encourages farmers to develop crop management strategies that maximise gross margins rather than yield alone.
The winners in three separate regions were those with the highest margin over fungicide programme costs on winter wheat.
The winners and margins for each region were:
Across all of the entrants, the best margins were achieved with low- to-moderate fungicide inputs, both by product and number of applications.
Average spend on fungicides was less than in 2019.
Chloe Morgan, ADAS arable crop pathologist, says: “Septoria was not a major problem this spring, as May rainfall is really key for it to splash up the canopy onto the top three yield-forming leaves.
“The very dry May meant any septoria stayed down at the base of the crop.
“With average rainfall in June, there was an increase in septoria up the canopy, resulting in a late epidemic of septoria just when the crop was starting to senesce, so the trials only showed a small yield benefit from fungicides controlling septoria.
“This meant in 2020 those who were bold enough to cut programmes to match the conditions and disease pressure came out on top.
“Although this is easily done with hindsight, it is much more difficult during the season when future conditions are uncertain.”
Velcourt agronomist Ryan Hudson says inherently, a lower fungicide spend is more risky than spending more money and applying more fungicide products but it is about being appropriate for the season.
He says: “We also need to ensure we are not just buying yield on a high input approach and that we understand the net margin position, which is more important than outright yield.”
Mr Hudson adds that fungicide programmes should be appropriate to the farm’s situation and the season, and consider all the information available from drilling date to crop health and nutrition.
“This season [2019-20] the appropriate fungicide spend has been low due to the low disease pressure, but next season could be very different if we have a wet spring and the appropriate spend could twice what it was in spring 2020,” he says.
“We need to be prepared and react accordingly based on the conditions nearer the time.”