Growing more resilient winter wheat crops to help counter the shrinking fungicide armoury, was a key theme at a recent open day at Agrovista’s new regional trials site at Kelso, in the Borders.

Two areas were highlighted to help achieve that – using newer varieties with improved disease resistances and reinforcing natural defences with appropriate bio-stimulant applications.

At the site, hosted by Mark Willis and Carlisle Lewis partnerships, Agrovista’s technical seed specialist, Stuart Cree, highlighted some robust varieties that suited the region, but advised growers not to take them for granted. “I don’t subscribe to the theory that better disease resistance scores mean you can get away with missing out a T0 or drastically reducing rates – you still need to protect the genetics.

“These are varieties that enable you to widen the spraying window, helping to optimise fungicide performance even where spraying programmes are delayed,” he said.

KWS Extase, a new hard Group 2 milling wheat, was a good example, with an untreated yield just six points shy of its 102 treated yield score on the Scottish Recommended List. That was well ahead of any other variety thanks to ratings of 8.1 for septoria tritici, 9 for yellow rust and 6 for mildew.

For those looking at the more traditional distilling market, LG Sundance looked a strong contender, scored 102 for treated yield and ‘looking as clean as could be’, with resistance scores similar to Extase.

Other varieties, such as LG Spotlight, LG Skyscraper and KWS Jackal, also looked good choices for this market.

For feed growers, Agrovista’s exclusive new offering, Sartorial, offered a robust package. This hard feed wheat was a match for the current heavyweights on the Recommended List, scoring 105% of controls in breeder trials.

It featured good septoria resistance at 6.2, scored a 9 for yellow rust and 6.4 for mildew. Mr Creeadded: “It has a wide sowing window and is very well suited as a first or second wheat.”

Bioscience products were much in evidence at the site. Agrovista’s technical manager, John Murrie, said stressed crops were more prone to disease, so alleviating that stress would reduce pressure on both plant and chemistry. There was a bewildering array of biostimulants on the market and the trick was knowing which one to use and when, and at what rate, he said.

Terra-Sorb, a product containing 18 key amino acids for plant growth, was a proven stress-buster, having been on the market for eight years.

Current trials aimed to refine application advice on commercial crops, with a little-and-often approach coinciding with key fungicide timings looking favourable. “Terra-Sorb has had a big past and we think it has a bigger future,” said Mr Murrie.

Klorofill, a unique enhancer that helps maximise the efficiency of chlorophyll production during rapid growth or stress, was also on show. “Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, so maintaining efficient production is key for healthy yields and profits,” said Mr Murrie.

“This is especially true during rapid spring growth, when production can lag demand. It looks very promising in winter oilseed rape and spring barley and looks to have a valuable role in winter wheat as well.”

New fungicides

Visitors were also given an insight into work being undertaken to assess the few new fungicides that are coming to market in the near future.

“Some new products offer a step-up in control and we are assessing them with a view to establishing the best and most cost-effective commercial programmes for the next few seasons, while protecting that chemistry for the long term,” said Mr Murrie.

Programmes that use alternatives to active ingredients that are about to be withdrawn such as chlorothalonil (CTL) were also being assessed, with folpet and mancozeb being examined as replacements early on in the fungicide programme. All trials would be taken to yield and disclosed at an autumn results meeting, he added.