Prevent lost Profit with Cereal Fungicides

The costs of growing cereals is increasing; with variable costs of €1,371 per hectare (€555 per acre) and €982 per hectare (€397 per acre) for winter wheat and spring barley respectively; according to the Teagasc 2013 costs & returns booklet. As highlighted in the table below, fungicides make up relatively small proportions of these figures i.e. 13.5% and 7.6% of the total variable costs for the respective crops. All this before any land rental costs (which are stronger than ever this year) are taken into account!

 

However, fungicides are routinely targeted as the first port of call in reducing the costs in cereal growing. Why? Some would argue that in low disease pressure years, fungicides do not pay. However, research does not support this. The table below summaries the Teagasc yield responses to fungicide programmes trials for winter wheat and spring barley at different levels of disease pressure over a number of years.

 

Even in a low disease pressure and a low grain price scenario, fungicides deliver a return on investment. This is highlighted in the table below which uses the above low yield responses and an extremely low green grain price of €100 per ton.

 

Key message-Even in a low disease pressure and a low grain price scenario, fungicides deliver a return on investment.
 
Another argument is that new chemistry is too expensive and by applying older chemistry more profit can be made. Again, this argument doesn’t stack up. This is highlighted in a trial conducted on winter wheat in Julianstown, Co. Meath in 2012. There were three treatments in the trial:
-Untreated (no fungicides applied)
-Three full rates of generic/older chemistry at correct timings
-Three full rates of new chemistry at correct timings
The results are shown in the table below.

 

The new chemistry cost €110 per ton more than the old chemistry but it delivered reduced levels of Septoria and critically 1.8 tons per hectare more yield. At the Dairygold green wheat price of €220 per ton in 2012, this delivered €396 more yield income and most importantly €286 more profit after deducting the extra cost.

Key message-While timing is critically important, newer chemistry delivers higher returns over costs i.e. more profit in a like for like situation. 

2012 responses to fungicides
A lot of money was spent on fungicides in 2012, perhaps more than ever before, and in the main very disappointing yields were recorded. A knee-jerk reaction would be to spend less money on fungicides in 2013. However, the reality is that fungicides delivered very strong returns on investment in 2012. The reason for the frustration is that control yields (field trials that received no fungicides) had higher yields in 2011 that the best performing treatments in 2012. This is highlighted from the trial in Julianstown in 2012. In this trial, the new chemistry treatment delivered 3 tons per hectare more yield than the untreated control but the total yield was only 6.6 tons/ha (2.67 tons/ac)! Several trials without any fungicide treatment yielded higher than this in 2011.

Poor weather drove poor yields and quality in 2012

The poor yields in 2012 were mainly due to poor weather and the wrong weather at the wrong time e.g. very wet in June. We all hope that 2013 will be kinder year weather wise, despite a poor start but all we can do is control the things within the farm gate. Make sure to base your 2013 fungicide decisions based on research.

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