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"Now is the time to future-proof disease management strategies"Increasing pressure to reduce pesticide usage, and the drive to farm more sustainably, is leading more fruit growers to consider biofungicides, in order to future-proof their disease management strategies.
Discussing the issue at National Fruit Show, Martin Donnelly of ICL says that looking ahead to the 2018 season, and beyond the role of conventional chemistry is essential to the long-term future of fruit production.
“The regulatory process is more rigorous than ever and the removal of chemistry from the market is becoming more and more common,” he explains.
“This means that chemical control alone can’t be relied on long-term. It can still have a place, but it’s important that growers start taking a preventative approach, rather than a purely curative strategy for disease management.”
“And as time goes on, this kind of approach is going to have to become mainstream. It’s what the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) focuses on, and there is also a similar trend from the supermarkets in their supplier guidelines. This is where the use of an appropriate biological fungicide product has a role to play,” says Martin.
He notes that although biofungicides have been available to growers for many years, there still seems to be some reluctance around their use.
“I think this is largely down to the way that the products work,” he says. “For example, biofungicides such as Prestop, are made up of specific strains of living fungi that predate on disease fungi including Botrytis, Phytophthora and Pythium, to prevent them taking hold in fruit crops,” he says.
“It’s important to note that they won’t work if they’re used curatively, after disease invasion, so they must be applied before infection has had chance to develop, so that the beneficial fungi can build up in the plant, and attack any incoming disease pathogens.”
He notes that because Prestop is a naturally occurring fungus (Gliocladium catenulatum strain J1446), there are no resistance issues or harvest intervals, so it can be applied right up until the fruit is picked, helping to tackle disease throughout the whole growing period.
“However, biofungicides do not provide a ‘one size fits all’ solution. They should be used following cultural practices, such as ensuring that nutrition, hygiene, and environmental temperature are adequate. They also need specific conditions to optimise performance,” says Martin.
“If soil wetness and air temperatures are conducive to disease development, then they’re equally suited to applying Prestop. This is why planning ahead and monitoring conditions is so important, as timing is key to successful treatment.”
For more information on Prestop, visit icl-sf.com/uk/explore/fruit-vegetables-arable-crops/
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Publication date: 11/7/2017
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