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Long-term view needed to look chemical resistance storm in the eye

Participants discuss chemical resistance scenarios at the Crop Protection Forum. Photo: GRDC

Accessing improved predictors of disease, insect and weed infestations, coupled with a greater use of integrated management, are among the key messages agronomists and growers have been advised to take into the coming season, as a result of attending 2018’s Crop Protection Forum.

More than 100 industry delegates from Australia and beyond convened in Glenelg, South Australia, for the one-day forum, with a view to tackling the brewing storm of fungicide, herbicide and pesticide resistance facing agriculture.

“It was great to have leading agronomy and crop management advisers from all major grain growing areas across Australia, and chemical company representatives, in the one room and engaged in a positive discussion about how cropping practices can be better managed in the future,” said Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) Co-Director and forum chair Professor Karam Singh.

“There was a clear call for all involved in growing crops to rethink current paddock practices, which sometimes rely too heavily on chemicals for disease, weed and pest control, in favour of more sustainable farming systems.

“We’re not saying don’t use chemicals, just to consider if options such as using different chemicals that can do the same or better job, or whether agronomic practices, such as varietal rotation for better host plant resistance, or other cultural practices, may provide a more economically and environmentally sound approach to disease, insect or weed control,” Professor Singh said.

“The reality is that while the industry’s reliance on these chemicals may provide potential short-term economic gains, it is sacrificing their effectiveness in the long-term. We must now look to methods, including the rotation of chemicals, crop types and cultural strategies, to preserve a sustainable and profitable enterprise mix.”

The 2018 Crop Protection Forum was a joint initiative of CCDM, a national research centre co-supported by Curtin University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), in partnership with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and research organisation cesar.

Other take-home messages from the forum included:

  • Be informed about the correct on-label usage of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides – using label or special permit rates and rotating chemicals to reduce the likelihood of resistance;
  • While not all circumstances are the same, herbicides and insecticides should generally be used at higher label rates – cutting rates is a likely recipe for increased resistance development;
  • However, when applying fungicides, the rate selected should be the lower label rate that provides economically acceptable levels of disease control given consideration to the seasonal conditions, disease pressure and other management tactics such as varietal genetic resistance. Using the lower label rate when there is low disease pressure and the crop variety has some genetic disease resistance is important for reducing the likelihood of resistance to fungicides. Consider the level of varietal disease resistance available when adopting new crop varieties.
  • The role of good scouting and early detection of pests is increasingly important in preserving the life of the chemicals we have in our tool kits, allowing us to only use them where and when needed. There is also an increasing range of new tests available to assist growers and agronomists in making these early detections.

“With strong interest in chemical resistance we will see further progression away from programmed spray application towards situation-based decision making,” said CCDM Extension Coordinator and forum facilitator John Noonan.

“This includes considering the importance of crop growth stage, yield potential, acceptance of risk and the potential for economic loss due to diseases, insects or weeds prior to every spray decision.

“With this information at hand, agronomists and growers can adhere to label or special permit conditions, rates and withholding periods to assure market access, health and environmental safety, and preserve the life-span of the chemistry that is available.

“Improved situation-based decision making now may prevent or delay future substantial losses associated with chemical failure,” Mr Noonan said.

Source: GRDC

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