With all grain prices currently north of €300/t, the very thought of reducing fungicide application rates this year seems ludicrous.

I know that some growers are discussing the feasibility of going on with 70-80% of the recommended rates, given the current dry weather. But in truth, this is based around an assumption that the rain will remain at bay for the next three weeks.

And given that we live and work in Ireland, this is pretty hefty supposition to be running with.

The current edition of the Tillage Edge podcast features a review of how all cereal crops are performing at the present time. And most of it makes positive listening from a cereal grower’s point of view.

But, there are pockets of disease out there. And no doubt the disease challenge will strengthen further as the weeks pass by.

Tackling disease with fungicide

One of the points stressed repeatedly by Teagasc is the need for growers to be absolutely on top of all relevant spray programmes between now and flag leaf stage.

In practical terms, this means that cereal producers should be spending the next three weeks walking crops and – if necessary – dissecting individual plants, as required.

Let me make the following point very clear – I am not an apologist for the agrochemical companies. They manufacture a range of products that cost a pretty penny.

However, I have long held the view that farmer-decisions, taken for whatever reason, to push on with half rate and other reduced fungicide application levels, have created nothing but long-term problems for the tillage sector.

There is an obvious link between this approach to disease control and plant pathogens gaining ‘early’ resistance to the treatments that were developed to kill and control them in the first place.

Tillage specialists now point to fungicide chemistries as being the route to preventing disease from occurring in the first place.

This approach, I believe, adds further weight to the argument that application rates should not be diluted in any sense.

But I come back to the fundamental point i.e., grain is currently worth real money. This will continue to be the case during the harvest of 2022 and beyond.

Given this scenario, it behoves every Irish cereal growers to ensure that fungal diseases do not have the opportunity of reducing crop yield potential and quality over the coming months.