Published on Tue, 04/15/2014 by BASF Canada

Fungicides offer more than just disease control: BASF

Fungicide use has picked up momentum in the past several years on many crops in Canada. While the purpose of a fungicide application is disease management, some fungicides have evolved to offer additional plant health and yield benefits.

The customized approach is a focus for the company with the recent launch of new fungicides tailored to specific time frames for specific diseases.

In 1996, BASF registered the first fungicide that delivered such benefits. Headline — a pyraclostrobin-based fungicide for managing leaf diseases on multiple crops — was positioned as more than just a disease management tool thanks to the unique plant health, or AgCelence, benefits that the pyraclostrobin active exhibits.

Through internal research and external research collaborations, the company learned that pyraclostrobin was effective at managing leaf diseases, but it also interacted with the plant at the biochemical level leading to growth enhancements. These enhancements resulted in visible health benefits, such as greener leaves, stronger stems, and better management of minor abiotic stresses, all leading to a higher yield potential compared to untreated plants.

That research continues today through the BASF AgCelence research program based in Saskatoon. There, Technical Development Specialist Russell Trischuk is evaluating the effects of pyraclostrobin on canola and cereal crops to better understand how it impacts plant health and yield.

“When we use Headline on canola, there is a visible difference between treated and untreated plants,” he says. “We know that pyraclostrobin interacts biochemically with the plant and that’s how we get the plant health benefits that we call AgCelence.”

Recently Trischuk recreated several of his trials on a smaller scale at a meeting in Regina, Sask. In one demonstration he tested the effects of high-heat stress on untreated and treated canola plants to show how pyraclostrobin affects the plant’s outcome. After five minutes of intense heat, the untreated plant showed significant wilting while the Headline-treated plant remained upright, withstanding the high-heat conditions.

“The main point we want to get across is not to look at the crop, but to look at the individual plant. We are talking about plant health, not crop health,” he says. “We can look at the crop and see higher numbers of pods or thicker stalks, but we also have the ability to look deeper into the plant. AgCelence promotes greener leaves, for example, and we know that they are truly greener as we conduct measurements of the green light reflected off treated and untreated leaves. We also know that pyraclostrobin helps a plant more efficiently capture more energy from sunlight which leads to more available energy to put towards the production of seed, which explains why we see some of the yield increases that we do, even in instances where no disease is present.”

Trischuk notes that this research is also being conducted on BASF’s newest fungicide molecule, Xemium, currently used in Priaxor DS in lentils, peas and chickpeas with its unique mobility properties. It is not currently registered for use on canola.

“A key thing to remember is that our research is looking at how plants react to different products, but we also look at timing and specific disease traits to better recommend solutions for our customers,” he says. “Part of that is knowing more about how AgCelence works on different crops, and part of that is knowing which chemistries will work best on different diseases because not all diseases can or should be managed by pyraclostrobin.”

That customized approach is a focus for the company with the recent launch of new fungicides tailored to specific time frames for specific diseases. For blackleg in canola, for example, BASF has found the optimal application timing is the 2 – 6 leaf stage and pyraclostrobin-based Headline has been shown to be a key tool in helping manage this disease. However, for other canola diseases, like sclerotinia, the optimal spray window is at 20–50 per cent bloom and boscalid-based fungicides, such as Lance, are best at managing the threat as they have better efficacy against that disease specifically.

“There is such a wide variety of products now — it’s no longer just a single product,” says Darwin Kells of Elfros, Sask. He operates a canola farm and has seen a change in direction from companies like BASF on how they promote and recommend fungicides. “Only a few years ago we really didn’t have a lot of choices in fungicides. Today, they are much more tailored for the individual crop,” he says. “It’s no longer the shotgun approach — we are coming in at specific times to take care of specific problems.”

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