Well managed fungicide programmes have delivered a return on investment of up to 3 to 1 in recent years, visitors to ProCam’s 2016 Summer Trials Open Days were told. Yield advantages of up to 3.5 t/ha can be attributed to fungicides in ProCam trials with T0 being a key contributor to the programme, according to the company’s technical director Dr. Tudor Dawkins.

“At a time when agronomic inputs are under pressure due to low commodity prices, increasing resistance issues and on-going revocation of active ingredients, correctly constructed fungicide programmes are still very cost-effective and essential to achieving optimum yields and margins. Even in relatively low disease pressure years like 2015, the crop health advantages of fungicides gave considerable yield advantages.”

ProCam trials show that in 2014 a full programme of fungicides gave an improvement of yield of 3.5 t/ha over control whilst even in 2015 the advantage was 2.0t/ha.

“Each £1 invested in fungicides in 2014 returned around £3 in output and in 2015 each £1 invested returned £2.”

Designing fungicide programmes for disease prevention rather than using high dose rates in a curative capacity when diseases are established was increasingly cost effective, the trials show.

“In a high disease pressure, like this year, where mildew, brown rust, yellow rust and septoria were all identified early in the season, reducing build-up of inoculum to an absolute minimum is essential. T0 is critical in achieving this. In 2014 a yield benefit of nearly 1.0t/ha could be attributed to including the spray in the programme. Programmes where the T0 was based on a triazole and chlorothalonil and followed by two SDHIs in association with triazole and or chlorothalonil chemistry for T1 and T2, followed by triazole and an alternative mode of action product at T3, produced yields of up to 12.5 t/ha and a response over untreated of 3.5t/ha. And remember that was in 2014 and not the much higher yielding year of 2015.”

In fact, 4Cast  analysis for 2015 shows the average winter wheat yield for a ProCam customer hit 10.08t/ha with the company’s top 25% achieving 11.4t/ha. Over the last 15 years, ProCam customers have achieved on average 0.8t/ha more than the Defra national average with the company’s top 25% producing 2.2t/h more. Average gross margin for ProCam winter wheat growers in 2015 was £613.47 with the top 25% achieving £862.23.

“It wasn’t that long ago that 10.0t/ha was an aspirational yield for only the very best growers on the very best soils. It just shows that despite the challenges we now face, well managed crops with good agronomy programmes can exceed peoples’ expectations considerably – from both yield and financial viewpoints.”

One of the most important areas now being researched by ProCam was how existing fungicides can be made even more effective by integrating them with specific micronutrient programmes, he added.

“We’ve got to look at more holistic solutions to addressing the problems we will face in the future and the role of micronutrients in the crop production equation is a relatively untapped area of opportunity. Our initial work suggests a further yield advantage of 1.0 t/ha can be added on to the effects of a good fungicide programme with certain nutrient strategies and this is something we plan to look at in more in the years ahead.”