DESPITE THE fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to bring new actives to the market for controlling disease in grain crops because of the burden of scrutiny, a new 'white hope' has emerged in the form of Revystar XE, from BASF.

"This is the fastest that we have ever been able to bring a product to market and that's simply down to its very favourable regulatory profile," said BASF's agronomy manager, Scott Milne, at its Scottish launch last week, at Murrayfield. "It ticks all the boxes with its environmental outline, in particular its extremely low effect on endocrine systems."

Its base is the revolutionary new active ingredient in Revysol, mefentrifluconazole, however in the UK it will be formulated as Revystar XE – a ready mix with another recently introduced SDHI active, Xemium, which should temper any resistance issues.

It is especially good news for UK grain growers given that the industry standard multi-site, clorothalonil (CTL), can only be used up until May 20, this year. Revystar XE comes from an entirely new family of triazoles and is the first new azole on the UK market in 15 years, a farmer audience heard last week.

Given that septoria tritici is the No 1 yield robber in Scottish wheat crops, then the efficacy of the combined fire power of Revystar XE will be a welcome addition to chemical stores this year. It also gives pretty good broad spectrum activity against other key diseases such as yellow rust, brown rust and mildew.

Europe-wide monitoring by BASF had detected a clear and continued shift in the sensitivity of the septoria population to prothioconazole. It is the mutations at the target site in the septoria pathogen which are most often referred to when talking about insensitivity to azoles.

Until now, 60% of the fungicides applied to the wheat crop across Europe have contained either prothioconazole or epoxiconazole and cross resistance between these two azoles has been identified – and mostly in the UK and Ireland.

All conventional azoles are affected by these mutations and this declining efficacy, which allows a more rapid cycling of septoria, means that Revystar XE has arrived at a critical moment. It shows efficacy against all the mutant strains that have developed in the disease.

It also makes a claim to be the quickest rainfast product on the market, allowing it to be used in catchy weather situations, said Mr Milne. That also gives it a very fast uptake by the plant, with the added benefit of being unaffected by UV light.

The product has a unique built-in property, a 'hook' – an isopropanol 'linker' on which the azole is attached – which gives it a unique flexibility, allowing it to change spatially and bind to the target site.

Crops treated with the new product stay visibly greener for longer and this translates to more yield because of a longer grain filling period. Yield responses of additional tonnage were reported across almost all 51 on-farm trials verified by AHDB last year. The biggest yield response was 1.1 tonnes per ha while on average, the trials which featured a two-spray programme produced 0.39 tonnes per ha more.

BASF's Neil Thomson said that Revystar XE's combination of two modes of action, with similar efficacy, had produced a fungicide which could perform at a level greater than expected from the sum of its two parts. "This would strongly suggest that this combination gives an effective resistance management approach," he said.

The product also has some impressive results in hitting barley disease, in particular ramularia, but more work will be done this year on that crop, said Mr Milne.

In the field:

ONE of the Scottish farmers involved in trialling the product last year, Andrew Booth, of Savock Farms, Ellon, made a strong case for Revystar XE.

Last season was his first as part of BASF’s Real Results team and he tried it out against his own standard spray programme, which is based on prothioconazole with one application of boscalid at T1.

“There wasn’t a huge disease pressure last season, but I noticed the crop treated with the BASF programme held on to its flag leaf for a good couple of weeks later than the farm standard plots," he said.

The big difference was at harvest, where yields showed a clear benefit in favour of the Revystar XE strategy. The plus was 1.5 tonnes per ha.

Mr Booth talked about his other big project on the farm, the production of gluten-free oats and a 'blockchain' tamperproof system of digitally filing and preserving a list of records, so that every bag of oats could be tracked back in the food chain, even to a particular field.

He is heading up a farmer-owned oat-processing plant and he added: “This project puts in place a system that will not only provide that reassurance to the consumer, but also digitises the journey. It’s a much wider project potentially, which could have huge benefits for the whole grain trade.”