Following the loss of key crop protection chemistry like Chlorothalonil, Agrii agronomist Ed Scaman believes that there will be a greater focus on plant health. In trials, biostimulants have proven benefits to both yield and overall crop health, so could they fill the void?

“Keeping a crop fit and healthy is key to achieving a profitable harvest. A large part of this comes down to protection against disease – traditionally attained by implementing a robust fungicide programme.

However, over the past few years, farmers have gradually seen a reduction in the tools available, either due to reduced efficacy or total bans on products.

Arguably one of the most devastating blows to arable growers recently is the loss of broad-spectrum fungicide Chlorothalonil. Alternative treatments are highly limited, meaning plant health is going to be a big concern.

With a continuous proven success rate and growing interest from farmers, it seems that biostimulants could sit alongside and compliment the dwindling range of traditional ag chemistry.

I began looking into the efficacy of biostimulants in 2017 and noticed in trials that the products really seemed to help keep crops green. As a result, we experimented with Interagro’s amino-acid based product – Zonda – which again provides us with some really promising results on small plot trials of wheat and barley.

After trialling Zonda alongside back-end nutrition last year, this season we’re focusing purely on the product alone, to drill down to exactly what benefits it can provide.

We are carrying out small plot trials again, with an application of Zonda at T1 and T2 in the wheat plots and at T2 for barley at a rate of 1 l/ha. While it’s too early to tell what affect it has had this year, the two year’s-worth of data we have collected so far has proved that Zonda really does help plants to do better and stay healthier, particularly in stress periods like drought. Some of the best results have been with late season ethephon based PGRs in winter and spring barley.

Thankfully, the crops around my patch of the country – Inverness – aren’t looking too bad at the moment, thanks to the recent bout of rainfall. However, if this suddenly stops, it could be very dangerous for growers. This is where Zonda comes into its own.

Anecdotally, we heard last year that crops which had received an application of Zonda had greener, bolder leaves that didn’t tend to curl up as much – despite the prolonged dry spell.

The issue then, particularly for barley growers, is that as soon as crops get stressed, they’re much more susceptible to issues such as Rhynchosporium.”

If we can lift the whole field up and get the crop healthier by using biostimulants it is only going to be a good thing and will really help to minimise over-reliance on vital fungicides that we are losing rapidly.

Ed Scaman, Agronomist, Agrii