Reports are coming in that the European Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) has voted against renewal of approval of fungicide chlorothalonil (CTL), important in control of cereal diseases such as septoria and ramularia. Marianne Curtis and Alice Dyer report
Only Hungary, UK, Lithuania and Greece are believed to have voted against the Commission’s proposal. An EFSA report highlighted concerns about risks to fish and amphibians and potential contamination of groundwater from chlorothalonil.
Hazel Doonan, head of crop protection and agronomy sector, Agricultural Industries Confederation, said SCoPAFF has supported the EC for non-renewal of approval which means chlorothalonil will be withdrawn but no dates have been given yet.
Ms Doonan said: “Some may already be being applied so it would not be practical to withdraw it this season.”
“It is unfortunate as it was a real way forward for septoria control in wheat and ramularia control in barley,” she said.
Dr Chris Hartfield, NFU senior regulatory affairs adviser, said: “Chlorothalonil is an essential tool in the UK to keep resistance development under control. It plays a vital role underpinning control of fungal diseases in UK crops like barley, wheat, asparagus and narcissus. Without it there is a high risk of the rapid development of resistance to other fungicides.
“We feel the Commission has been overly precautionary in making this decision and has failed to consider the particular importance of this active in the control of critical fungal diseases and in managing disease resistance. As a result, we believe sectors of UK agricultural and horticultural production will be put at significant risk.”
David King, head of technical at Syngenta, which markets chlorothalonil based product, Bravo, said the withdrawal dates were likely to be announced in the next few weeks. “If it follows normal trends we would expect a 12-month use-up period. In 2019 we would expect to have it. It will be available this year to be used and there is the potential to be able to use it for at least part of next season.”
Mr King said: “Sadly SCoPAFF voted against renewal and we have lost another active ingredient.”
Growers would need to think more strategically about disease management, he added. “There are some alternative multi-sites and growers should think about using these. “When planning disease control growers should think about the varieties they are growing and when they drill.”
Early drilling could leave crops exposed to more cycles of septoria for a longer period of time, said Mr King. “This can have a large impact on the disease challenge a crop has. But not every farmer can drill later so they need to think about the varieties they are growing and select those with higher resistance for septoria if they are drilling early, for example, Graham.”
Bill Clark, technical director at NIAB, said it is a huge loss to the industry and other multi-site fungicide alternatives are not as effective.
“The loss of CTL will have a big impact on septoria control but more importantly ramularia control in barley. There are alternatives in full fungicide programmes and we will be able to cope but the alternatives are not as effective as CTL.”
Mr Clark also said the loss of CTL will mean resistance issues in future fungicides are accelerated.
“We are helping to protect the other fungicides when we are mixing multi-sites and at the moment if you drop Bravo (chlorothalonil) and just rely on single-sites, the immediate impact would be negligible – we would still get good control for the first two to three years but it will put more pressure on the new chemistry that is coming through. They all need protecting and that is what CTL does.
“It is a blow, but we have got lots of trials to redesign fungicide programmes without it. Septoria resistant varieties are helping to protect but we do not have an answer for ramularia and I think that will be a real challenge without CTL.”
Ian Sands, chairman of NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Committee, who owns and contract farms just under 2000 acres in Perthshire, said: “Growers like myself will find it very hard to understand why a product that has been in use since 1964 is now deemed to be unsafe.
“Without doubt, this product is the main stay of fungal disease control in Scotland’s largest and most important crop, barley, where it is the only effective tool available for the control of ramularia leaf spot. A bad infestation can cause a fall in yield of 0.6 tonnes per hectare.
“Ramularia also impairs quality and can increase screenings, hitting those who are growing for a quality market like malt whisky.
“Given the huge importance of barley and wheat to the Scottish drinks industry, this could cause serious problems for this iconic sector.
“Factor in that this product is still going to be allowed to be used in other countries outside the EU, then this is disastrous for our growers.”
NFU estimated the loss of CTL on the yield and quality of UK wheat could lead to a 8-12 per cent increase in cost of production.
Jock Willmott, crop specialist at Strutt and Parker says the ban on CTL will have greater consequences for farmers in the UK and Ireland compared to other member states.
“The quickest spread of septoria resistance to fungicides is where you get the most rain, so typically in Ireland and in the west of the UK. Across the channel into France and Germany fungicides tend not to be under the same pressure certainly in wheat, so a loss of CTL will potentially affect the UK more than other Northern European countries.”
However, Mr Willmott says there could be light at the end of the tunnel when the UK exits the EU.
“Other trading nations like South America, where there is a lot of soya grown will still continue to use it, so if there is a chink of light post-Brexit we might be able to get it registered in this country. It might well be that it is going to be a necessity for wheat growing, unless they can get a really good septoria resistant varieties. Whether there could be some kind of derogation based on our climate, particularly for Ireland I do not know.”
Chlorothalonil gone. Lost another great active. Fungicide programmes will be very different in the coming years. Where will it stop? Glyphosate? Propyzamide? Really seems like there squeezing us into a corner we won’t be able to get out.
Another nail in the coffin of wheat growing in the wet West Country
Another huge blow to sustainable crop production in EU & UK putting more pressure on remaining #PPPs. #Chlorothalonil becomes the latest tool available to our competitors to help them undercut us - especially if 0% import tariffs on cereals become a reality.
Just heard from an Agronomist friend in the UK this morning that Chlorothalonil the multi-site active in Bravo has been selected for removal in the EU. Interesting times ahead for resistance strategies with fewer actives!!
Good to see UK voting for retention of a valuable product & a key part of resistance strategy.
Seriously bad news for the cereal sector & will inevitably place significant selection pressure on existing and new chemistry (eg Revysol/Innatreq)
With non-renewal announcements of CTL and others in the pipeline ? we will need to be smarter in management. Wider rows, less early N, varietal resistance, companions and healthier plants from healthier soil may all make a positive difference.