A Velcourt farm manager who achieved record wheat yields for his farm in 2022 believes the unique active ingredient in Corteva Agriscience’s new fungicide, Univoq™, was pivotal to his success.
Charlie Batten, Regional Farms Manager for Velcourt in the South East of England, says using a new site of action, coupled with robust trials data, gave him the flexibility and confidence to adapt his disease control strategy to the pressures of the season.
Because the Inatreq active molecule has a unique site of action and no cross resistance to any other chemistry, it gave Charlie and his team the flexibility to position Univoq at T2, leaving two SDHi sprays available to apply elsewhere in the programme.
This proved particularly useful last year when septoria pressure started to build in late May following high rainfall earlier in the month.
“Our focus here is on septoria – that’s the main challenge in the South,” Charlie says. “And last year wasn’t a particularly high-pressure year until we had an outbreak towards the end of May.
“Normally we’re fighting septoria from the get-go, but last year it wasn’t an issue until it came in quickly late in the season.”
In previous years, the team would already have applied two SDHis – at T1 and T2 – meaning their options for later-season control, when we saw pressure increase, would have been limited.
“But with an SDHi at T1 and then Univoq at T2, we could come back with another SDHI at T3,” he explained.
“That wasn’t our plan, but it was the right reaction when we got those big rain events and septoria started coming back in.”
Historically, Charlie would have applied a Strobulurin at T0 followed by consecutive SDHi sprays at T1 and T2. But in 2022 he used Univoq at 1.25l/ha at T2, allowing him to apply SDHis at T1, and then another on 9 June at the T3 timing, three weeks after Univoq had been applied.
“The protection provided by Univoq at T2, followed by an SDHi at T3 definitely put us in pretty good shape,” he says.
As well as being an effective product, Charlie believes Univoq’s key strength is the fact that it gives farmers more options.
“It’s not just the fact it’s a new product – yes, Univoq is good on septoria but it also allows us to be flexible with our whole fungicide strategy” he says.
Velcourt was aware of Univoq’s potential before it was released after trialling it for two years.
“We’d been using Univoq in trials for a couple of years as a coded product before we knew its name or what was in it,” Charlie says. “As a company we are very proactive with our research and development and try to get an early look at new chemistry and products through our own trials work so that we can make the best use of new products from the point of approval.
“Our R&D department already had a view of its capabilities. So as soon as it was commercially available it was an instant decision to use it across the business.”
Charlie says the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the new-look programme gave yields a big boost.
“One of our trials in Dorset showed a 0.85t/ha increase from the positioning of an SDHi at T3 in 2022, underpinning our confidence that this was the correct response to late season disease pressure last spring” he says.
The contract farming agreements Charlie oversees total 2,700ha across 13 different farms spread 60 miles apart.
“Our best yielding wheat in 2022 was from a 200ha block and last year it produced 11.8t/ha,” he says. “The five-year average on that farm would be around nine tonnes per ha.”
“It was a tremendous growing season and all the wheat yielded above the five-year average, but that was a stand-out result.”
“Because it is not SDHi chemistry, I am convinced Univoq was key to us achieving our highest average wheat yields ever by keeping crops green and filling grain for longer.”
Some farmers, Charlie notes, experienced some issues with sprayer components last year after applying Univoq at T2.
However, this isn’t something that has put him off using Univoq, as he plans to use the same approach again this year, dependent upon the disease pressure that develops.
“We had some minor issues last year which required parts to be replaced, but we couldn’t get hold of them straight away,” he says.
“This season we’re more prepared – we’re following the guidelines Corteva has set out around sprayer maintenance and we’ve got spare parts on the shelf.
“I’m sure Corteva has done everything it can to provide robust best practice guidance and we’ve done what we can in terms of following this.
“We don’t want to use another product. We believe the margin over cost benefit demonstrated in our work is positive enough to warrant the extra work involved in replacing sprayer parts. It’s worth it for the protection it gives our crops.”