One of Northern Ireland’s leading cereal growers has described last week’s decision by the European Commission to ban the fungicide Chlorathalonil as a body blow for the local grain sector.
“It is a front line chemical, used to control Septoria in both wheat and barley crops,” said Co Down grain producer Allan Chambers.
“Chlorathalonil has been used on local farms for decades. It has a proven track record in tackling the most common fungal diseases of cereal crops. It is also relatively cheap. It’s hard to know how it can be replaced.”
Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Committee, Ian Sands, agrees with these sentiments.
“This is a massive set-back for the cereal growing sector with huge potential to effect the whole of the Scottish food and drink industry.
“Growers like myself will find it very hard to understand why a product that has been in use since 1964 is now deemed to be unsafe.
“Without doubt, this product is the main stay of fungal disease control in Scotland’s largest and most important crop, barley, where it is the only effective tool available for the control of ramularia leaf spot. A bad infestation can cause a fall in yield of 0.6 tonnes per hectare, equivalent to more than 10 percent of crop lost.
“Ramularia also impairs quality and can increase screenings, hitting those who are growing for a quality market like malt whisky.
“Chlorothalonil is also an important fungicide to protect other crops such as wheat, both by itself and mixed with other products to manage disease resistance, and alternatives are nowhere near as effective.”
Meanwhile, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Grain Committee Chairman Mark Browne said the decision by the EU Commission and endorsed by the EU Member States not to renew Chlorothalonil is a severe blow for the Irish tillage sector.
He added that the loss of the product is going to compound the income crisis in the sector. A Teagasc report indicated where Clorothalonil is not available, there is the potential for a net margin reduction of over 50% in wheat, and 65% in Irish barley production.
Mark Browne confirmed that the decision to ban Clorothalonil will also have serious knock-on affects for the Irish livestock, dairy, mushroom and drinks sectors, which rely on the arable sector both for raw material and branding purposes.
The IFA Grain Chairman called on Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to put supports and measures in place to mitigate the effects of the loss of the active ingredient and to ensure that there will be no cuts in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to arable producers in the next funding round of support measures for EU farmers.