Top Crop Manager

Features Fungicides Seed & Chemical
Learning to be early

Producer-led research playing an important role in on-farm decision making.

November 20, 2007  By Top Crop Manager

Farming in Canada is a high tech, knowledge intensive business. In today's
business climate, access to accurate, unbiased information plays a critical
role in on-farm decision making. However, with all the funding cuts to public
agriculture research budgets, it is becoming harder and harder for farmers to
find independent information sources. Increasingly, producers and industry alike
are depending on farmer-run research groups, like the Swift Current based Wheatland
Conservation Group, to provide independent, third party information. This producer
organization, run by a board of directors from across southwest Saskatchewan,
has been providing farmers with cutting edge research since 1983.

"The producer is our main client," says Wheatland farm manager Bryan
Nybo, and "they look to us to provide non-biased research. They want information
from someone who isn't trying to sell them something. When we take on a project
from a company, we give them the numbers that we find. We don't show favouritism.
Companies know that and the producers know that. You can tell the reputable
companies with good products because they are the ones that keep coming back."

BASF has been doing fungicide research with the Wheatland Conservation Group
for the past five years. "Having third party data is very valuable to us,"
says Lyle Drew, a senior field biologist with BASF.


Wheatland Conservation Group's original mandate was to find solutions to soil
salinity problems in Saskatchewan's southwest. Today the group, one of six,
affiliated through Saskatchewan's Agri-Arm network, does applied research and
demonstration work on a number of different crops and a wide variety of topics.
Current research projects range from pulse, canola, canaryseed and wheat variety
trials to pea fertility trials as well as some work on inoculants. They are
also continuing their well-known work on fungicides in pulse crops.

"We've been doing fungicide work for about six years now," Nybo says.
"We did our first fungicide work back in 1999. Back then we wondered why
in the world we were doing fungicide work down in the southwest. We don't have
disease here. Two years later we had a big disease problem in chickpeas."

Chickpea crops are so susceptible to ascochyta that the disease has drastically
reduced production of the once wildly profitable crop in Saskatchewan. Outbreaks
can occur any time weather conditions are conducive and left untreated can completely
destroy the crop. BASF has been working with the Wheatland Group to try to find
the best way to control the disease. Together they have studied the number,
timing and sequencing of fungicide applications.

They found that the best results were obtained when first applications were
done before there was any visible sign of disease, well before first flower.
"The longer you can push back the first sign of disease the better,"
Nybo says. "We'd like to definitely see an application before flowering,
before the onset of disease. Get out there early and hope the weather co-operates."

Most producers growing kabuli type chickpeas would need to do three additional
fungicide applications throughout the growing season. Since multiple fungicide
applications are necessary, growers have to take special care to rotate the
systemic strobilurin fungicides, like Headline, with fungicides like Lance to
prevent resistance from developing.

"Over many years of research, we've found the best combination is to use
Headline, Headline followed by Lance, Lance {strobilurin, strobilurin, followed
by a different mode of action, anilid, for later application and control of
both grey mould (botrytis) and white mould (sclerotinia)}," Drew says.
"Our competitors in the market suggest a different combination."

"In 2004, we did notice there was an advantage to using a strobilurin
first," Nybo says. "Some producers don't really want to do that because
it may seem wasteful to spray the more expensive strobilurins when the plant
is still so small. However, it seemed to fend off disease a little better if
you used one for the first application."

Drew believes this is because the strobilurin family that Headline belongs
to, "is far more effective. It's like putting your best foot forward. If
you put the best product on early it sets you up for a good season. The key
with fungicides is to not let the disease get started and then maintain control.
We get in and get the disease under control so the disease doesn't really get
a chance to start."

Producers just hope that together, industry, breeders and researchers can find
a way to help restore chickpeas to the healthy profit margins they had in the
late '90s. "It's a big challenge," Nybo says. Growers can take some
solace that the Wheatland Conservation Group is working hard to provide part
of the solution. -30-



Stories continue below