Chloronthalonil decision ‘a blow’ to sustainable crop production

David Matthews, UFU seeds and cereals chairman
David Matthews, UFU seeds and cereals chairman

The Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Ulster Arable Society say the decision not to renew the approval of fungicide chloronthalonil (CTL) – the active ingredient in a number of plant protection products – is another blow to sustainable crop production in Northern Ireland.

UFU seeds and cereals policy committee chairman, David Matthews said: “While no date has been given yet for the withdrawal of this vital plant protection product, we would urge the UK government to ensure the longest possible withdrawal period to allow farmers to adjust and seek alternatives.”

The comments were made following reports that the European Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) voted against renewing the approval of the fungicide.

UFU seeds and cereals policy committee chairman, David Matthews said: “This announcement brings additional challenges to Northern Ireland’s arable sector. This is a major loss to the armoury of active ingredients, with very limited alternatives currently available for the industry. It would seem on the information available we may have access to chlorothalonil for the next two growing seasons if government takes a pragmatic approach, however, this is as yet to be clarified.”

Chlorothalonil plays a critical role in underpinning the control of fungal diseases in NI crops like spring barley and wheat, it is especially effective in a wet climate like Northern Ireland.

Ulster Arable Society chairman, Bruce Steele said: “This is a sad and worrying time for the arable sector. CTL has had to form the basis of almost all fungicide mixes and programmes, particularly on cereal crops in recent years due to the continuing decline in sensitivity from fungal diseases to our current armoury of single-site fungicides. New active ingredients are close to market but there will still be issues with disease resistance. Our role as growers of high quality, high yielding crops has just become very much more difficult.”

The decision on chlorothalonil will impact NI farmers even after the UK leaves the EU. The UFU and UAS both agree that given this product will continue to be used in other countries outside the EU, it will hinder the competitiveness of NI growers in the global market.

Earlier this week leading arable farmer Allan Chambers said Chlorathalonil has been used on local farms for decades.

He added: “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.”