A farmer whose onion paddock is hit by the fungal disease “white rot” faces the loss not only of that crop but of productive use of the field for several years. Relief could be at hand, however, thanks to a novel granulated fungicide now being tested in the field in Victoria.
“In the case of white rot, there is no existing commercially acceptable treatment and if a farmer has an infestation in their field they can’t use it for onions or similar crops for up to 15 years,” says Anthony Flynn, managing director of the agricultural chemical research company Eureka! AgResearch. “They’ve just had to move the crop on to the next paddock.”
The new granulated fungicide targets the soil-borne fungus Sclerotium cepivorum.
The granules are designed to be spread directly onto an affected paddock, and they are activated the next time it rains. By being able to deliver the fungicide closer to the roots of the plants, and then release it slowly, the granules more efficiently target the disease than current alternatives that require spraying.
It is one of a range of innovative granulated products being developed by Eureka! AgResearch, and supported by a $1.15 million collaborative science and innovation grant from the Victorian Government.
Granulated pesticides and fungicides can be packaged cheaply in cardboard, which costs farmers less to transport than the liquid forms which dominate the global market.
“There are also application advantages—if you need to apply pesticides or fungicides from the air, granules will go through the canopy of a tree much easier,” Anthony says.
“It’s also safer—if there’s a chemical spill it is easier to clean up the granules. It’s giving farmers a cheaper option and better disease control.”
Photo: A new granulated fungicide will help onion farmers treat white rot.
Victorian Department of Business and Innovation, www.business.vic.gov.au/innovation