Managed lower fungicide inputs: Strategic Cereal Farm West

Our Strategic Cereal Farm West is testing the cost-benefit of different fungicide input programmes. Here are the results so far from our Harvest 2021 trials.

Managed lower fungicide inputs trial summary

  • Start: September 2020
  • End: Harvest 2021

Objective

To test whether a managed approach to lowering fungicide inputs can be used on varieties with different disease ratings, without compromising yield, but improving the cost of production.

Why test a managed lower fungicide input programme?

Disease management in cereals is a challenge. The loss of chemistry and fungicide resistance means that we need new ways to manage cereal diseases.

Our projects help support farmers and agronomists to manage cereal disease on farm. The fungicide performance research we fund provides information on the effectiveness of new products. The Recommended List can help with selecting the best varieties for your farm.

This trial is testing the cost-benefit of different fungicide input programmes.

How is the managed lower input fungicide trial run?

The replicated tramline trial is in Field 13 in KWS Extase and KWS Siskin winter wheat. Strategic Cereal Farm host, Rob Fox, drilled the trial in an 18-hectare field on 30 September 2020 at a rate of 208 kg/ha. The main soil types in the field are heavy red marl and medium to heavy loam.

The design of the trial minimises the effect of the soil variation in the field on the data. It focuses on the comparison between fungicide inputs on each variety. The area untreated is small to prevent significant yield loss.

Results from the lower fungicide input programme so far

Crop establishment

In November 2020, ADAS measured the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). NDVI is the ratio between visual red and infrared reflectance of the crop canopy.

The field team also took three photos to measure the green area index (GAI) on each tramline at a height of 1 metre. Green area index is the ratio between the total area of all green tissues, one side only, and the area of ground from which they came.

Crop development and disease

In March 2021, the crop had established well in the trial. Siskin was approaching GS30 but Extase was further behind with the ear still at the base of the stem. The field team found septoria in both varieties and eyespot only in Siskin.

In April 2021, ADAS repeated the NDVI and GAI assessments. They also collected biomass samples, and disease scored three plants in each tramline. Disease levels were low, and they only found septoria on dead leaves.

The disease levels are low in both varieties. The crop is yellowing due to stress by frosts or dry weather conditions. Siskin remains behind Extase in growth stage.

Treatment applications

The treatments have had plant growth regulators, micronutrients and broadleaf weed control.

The different fungicide input treatments were applied at T1 on 26 April 2021.

  • Low input did not receive a T1 treatment
  • Medium input received 0.7 litres tebuconazole + 1.5 litres folpet
  • High input received 0.8 litres bixafen and fluopyram

Fungicide input decisions

Disease assessments

Between GS31 and 55, ADAS will assess foliar disease if moderate infections develop. Moderate infections are 5% in untreated crops and 2% in treated crops. Once the disease level reaches this threshold, the team will assess the crop every two weeks. They will also check for stem diseases.

After GS55, the field team will assess foliar diseases that reach 5% in any of the treatments. At this point, the team will assess the trial often enough to get meaningful disease scores. This could be every two weeks but it might be more often. They will also assess stem and ear diseases.

Crop development

The research team will continue to assess the crop using growth stage, NDVI and GAI.

Yield

At harvest, the farm will collect combine yield data for ADAS to analyse.

Cost of production

The Farm Economics team will calculate a treatment level economic cost of production. Using Farmbench, they will produce costs per hectare and per tonne. The calculations will use:

  • Seed, fertiliser and crop protection
  • Farm labour, machinery and equipment
  • The regional average for property, energy and administration

Results from Harvest 2019 fungicide trial

For harvest 2019, a similar trial looked at fungicide inputs on a single winter wheat variety. The split field trial looked at Graham winter wheat under two input programmes. The farm standard treatment used dressed seed and received a conventional programme. The second treatment was a reduced input programme, which used untreated seed. The results showed that there was no significant difference in yield between treatments.

Read the harvest 2019 report

Our Strategic Farms are an opportunity to see how to use our research on a commercial farm. Find out more about our Strategic Farm Programme

Useful resources

Integrated pest management of cereal diseases

Recommended List

Fungicide performance in cereals and oilseed rape

Image of staff member Richard Meredith

Richard Meredith

Interim Head of Arable Knowledge Exchange
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