Simple crop management for a complicated world
While COVID-19, new tariffs, border closures and labour availability has required those working in the grain industry to pivot many times in 2020, when it comes to choosing the best products for your crops, some things don’t change. Here Arturo de Lucas, BASF Portfolio Manager Seed Treatment and Inoculants, discusses how choosing quality products at sowing is the best decision grain growers can make, regardless of their growing strategy.
There has arguably never been a more important time for grain growers around Australia to review their cropping strategy. In addition to the challenges associated with COVID-19, the significant new tariffs on Australian barley have prompted many grain growers to rethink their cropping approach. “China is a premium market for malt barley, so restricted access to this market has prompted some farmers to shift their crop mix to plant less malting barley and more feed barley with focus on higher yields, pulses, wheat and canola,” explains Arturo de Lucas, Portfolio Manager Seed Treatment and Inoculants, BASF Australia and New Zealand.
Whilst changing growing strategies can lead to increased ROI pressure, de Lucas stresses that growers should carefully consider the time and financial investment before choosing a product. “While it’s understandable that barley growers may be looking to reduce the initial investment from a seed treatment perspective, it’s important to remember that cheaper products which don’t offer enough protection can end up impacting yield and costing a lot more in the long run.”
As the first seed treatment to control all major foliar diseases, as well as seed-borne and soil-borne diseases in barley, BASF’s Systiva® is one example of a product that provides unparalleled value. “Growers love Systiva because, unlike its competitors, it provides protection from early seed and soil diseases such as loose smut and rhizoctonia, key foliar diseases such as spot form and net form of net blotch, scald, leaf rust and powdery mildew, along with Septoria tritici control in wheat,” de Lucas explains.
Like many things in life, in crop protection timing is critcial. “Once foliar diseases appear it can be difficult to apply a foliar fungicide, and sometimes it’s too late which of course impacts the crop health and yield. Systiva provides peace of mind due to its earlier, longer and broader protection resulting in healthier barley and wheat crops and ultimately higher yields and a better return of investment.”
de Lucas adds that good agronomic practices and product stewardship should always be key drivers of product decisions. “Product stewardship should go hand-in-hand with good agronomic practices. It’s so important that growers always follow the label without adjusting rates, select resilient crop varieties, and practice crop rotation.”
The importance of product stewardship is especially important considering recent reports of a shift in sensitivity to some strains of Net Blotches to SDHI fungicides. While further testing of the affected, regionally isolated barley samples is ongoing by the Centre of Cereal Disease Management (CCDM) at Curtin University, de Lucas says more vigorous stewardship and best practice communication is imperative.
“This shift in sensitivity is not specific to any one SDHI fungicide and does not imply that Systiva does not work. What it does highlight however is growers should always monitor their crops and use different tools for the best management of diseases. Using foliar fungicides containing different modes of action after Systiva, including a QoI and DMI such as Opera® Fungicide, minimises the risk of sensitivity shifts developing whilst also maximising yield.”
Whilst 2020 has no doubt been a complex year, de Lucas concludes that simple advice is often the best advice. “My advice to barley growers is simple: first choose barley varieties with higher tolerance to disease, second choose the right products and follow the label directions when using them, and finally follow good resistance management practices and make sure you rotate your crops. ”