‘We don’t like to use fungicides unnecessarily’

Chlorothalonil (a multi-site fungicide) is expected to be voted on in the EU commission this month. The product has been part of Irish Agronomy programmes for many years.

This week’s episode of FarmLand looks at the use of fungicides, and chlorothalonil in particular, in the Irish tillage sector.

John O’Loughlin is a tillage farmer from Co. Kildare and described the use of these products on his farm. While Teagasc researcher Steven Kildea explained some of the findings from a report he carried out entitled: ‘The potential impact the loss of chlorothalonil would have on cereal production in Ireland.’

In the past 18 months tillage farmers have seen a number of chemicals taken off the shelves – IPU (grass weed control), neonicotinoids (aphicide), and diquat (herbicide) are some examples.

Chlorothalonil is a fungicide used for both disease control and as part of an anti-resistance strategy in Irish cereal disease control programmes.

John explained why he uses fungicides: “We use fungicides to protect our wheat crop from various diseases. If we didn’t use fungicides the diseases would destroy all of the foliage on the crop and the grain that we produce would be of poor quality.

Winter wheat on John O’Loughlin’s farm in Co. Kildare

“The green leaf that the crop produces, produces the starch and the sugars that fill the grains, so if you don’t have the green leaf on the crop you don’t have grains to sell.

Profit is not huge anyway, so if you start to lose 30-40% of yield that’s your profit gone.

On-farm trials

John is part of the Kildare Growers’ Group and regularly carries out trials on his farm. This in turn results in the optimal use of these products.

“In our climate we have to use the fungicides more like an insurance policy; you can’t use fungicides once the crop has the disease – that’s too late.

“As we know more and as we see the way the various fungicides react on the farm we’ve been able to fine tune how much we use and get the timings as good as we possibly can.

We’ve been able to pull back the rates and use the particular products which suit the crop best.

“Chemicals cost money; they cost a lot of money. The less I use, the more I save and obviously a saving is a profit to me. There’s no great joy in spending a lot of money on a crop when the price isn’t very high. Obviously we have to watch every penny we spend on the crop.

We don’t like to use fungicides unnecessarily.