700,000 Germans Died Due to Fungicide Shortage

Potato blight

Potato blight

The fungus p. infestans was first found in Europe causing the late blight rot of potatoes in the 1840s. In 1845/1846 the fungus destroyed all the potatoes in Ireland and 1.5 million people died. The fungus spread throughout Europe and caused potato crop failures until the late 1800s when the use of copper was found to be an effective fungicide for protecting potatoes from infection by p. infestans. The use of copper as a fungicide spray on potatoes became widespread throughout Europe in the early 1900s. However, in Germany during World War I, all the copper was requisitioned for making bullets. The German civilian population had become dependent on potatoes due to shortages of other foods. A late blight epidemic destroyed Germany’s potato crop in 1916 due to the lack of protection with a fungicide.

“…the last major famine caused by P. infestans occurred in 1916 during World War I. It resulted in the deaths of 700,000 German civilians, who were unable to protect their potato crop because copper was needed to produce bullets, rather than fungicides. Even today, more than 170 years after the Irish epidemic, frequent applications of fungicides are necessary to grow potatoes in moist climates, and losses occur even in dry areas, such as Israel and the western United States. Potatoes remain a fungicide-intensive crop, despite more than 150 years of study of P. infestans and the disease it causes.”

Authors: Schumann, G. L., and C. J. D’Arcy.
Affiliation: Marquette University, and University of Illinois.
Title: Hungry Planet: Stories of Plant Diseases.
Source: The American Phytopathological Society. 2012.

Organic Berry Production in Europe is at a Dead End

Damage from Raspberry Beetle

Damage from Raspberry Beetle

The growing of organic strawberries and raspberries in Europe has not expanded in the past decade. There is organic production in most countries, but it is on a very small scale. Organic berry production in Europe is likely to remain a niche market largely due to lack of control of very damaging insect pests.

“Many European growers of organic strawberry and raspberry have large losses in yield (sometimes >80%) and reduced quality of their products because of insect damage. Among the major threats are the strawberry blossom weevil, the European tarnished plant bug and the raspberry beetle. In organic soft fruit production there are no effective control measures for these pest insects.”

Authors: Wibe, A., et al.
Affiliations: Bioforsk Organic Food and Farming, Norway.
Title: Management of strawberry blossom weevil and European tarnished plant bug in organic strawberry and raspberry using semiochemical traps – “Softpest Multitrap”
Source: NJF Report. 2013. 9[8]:31.

The Importance of Pendimethalin Herbicide in Greece


Greek Cotton Field

Pendimethalin is normally used to control weeds on about 85% of the cotton and onion farms in Greece. During the last decade, the number of approved herbicides has drastically declined in Europe, leaving farmers with less choices and high weed control costs. Researchers at Aristotle University recently summarized the potential effects on Greek farmers if use of pendimethalin were to be stopped as a result of EU regulatory action.

“This work aims to determine the current state of experts’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding pendimethalin use in three crops (cotton, onion, processing tomato). The survey is focused on experts’ perceptions towards the necessity of pendimethalin in weed control, the advantages and disadvantages of pendimethalin and the probable impacts of pendimethalin withdrawal due to EU regulation or stoppage in manufacturing.

Any action of stoppage or withdrawal of pendimethalin from the market will bring about devastated effects on the farmers and crops, mainly due to lack of effective substitutes or herbicide combinations. The most significant impact, in case of pendimethalin withdrawal, would be a surge in production cost, since farmers must apply more costly and perhaps less effective weed control techniques (hoeing, covering land with plastic and using other combinations of herbicides).

…a Greek farmer hardly can harvest cotton without chemical weed control. Also, they stated that hardly can vision the possibility to cultivate onion, in the Viotia area, and cotton in Thessaly region without herbicide availability, since cost effective alternatives cannot being foreseen.

Then, considering the withdrawal effects of the use of pendimethalin in a regional level, the growers of cotton in Thessaly will lose a total of approximately €16.4 million of their gross production value and a total of approximately €7.3 million of their net revenues. …Finally, in a national level the growers of cotton in whole Greece will lose a total of approximately €42.8 million of their gross production value and a total of approximately €19.1 million of their net revenues.”

Authors: Mattas, K., et al.
Affiliations: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Title: Economic assessment of Pendimethalin herbicide use in selective crops (cotton, processing tomato & onion).
Source: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Working Papers No 166116 Available: http://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:grauwp:166116.

Angry Italian Women Replaced by Herbicides


Le Mondine of the 1950s                                                                      Riso Amaro “Bitter Rice”

In Italian rice fields in the 1950s prior to the development of herbicides, weeding was done by hand. In May, the rice fields had to be weeded to prevent the young rice from being choked by other vegetation. Hundreds of women known as le mondine, or weeders, arrived from all parts of Italy to perform the delicate task of rooting out the weeds while leaving the young rice plants in place. Le mondine have become a nostalgic memory, immortalized by the famous film Riso Amaro or ‘Bitter Rice.’ It was a hard life for le mondine. They had to work bent double, up to their knees in water under a blazing sun. As the women weeded, they sang. One of the songs, Bella Ciao, was adopted by the Italian Communist Party to express the social injustice of the system. In the 1960s, most of the women left the rice fields when jobs opened up in cities, such as Milan, Genoa, and Turin. Today, herbicides are used in Italian rice fields.

“Italy is the largest rice producer in Europe, with about 235,000 ha in 2012. The main rice cultivation area is concentrated in the north-western regions of Piedmont and Lombardy where the continuous paddy rice system is widespread. Weed management is one of the key aspects of rice cultivation because pedo-climatic conditions are favourable to weeds that are generally competitive, there is a rich and persistant seed bank, and the weed flora is often dominated by difficult-to-control species… Consequently, farmers need to apply complex chemical and agronomic strategies to guarantee good weed control. Herbicide use is intense, with an average treatment frequency index higher than 2.5.”

Authors: Scarabel, L, et al.
Affiliations: National Research Council, Italy.
Title: Resistance evolution and sustainability of the rice cropping system: the Italian case study.
Source: Global Herbicide Resistance Challenge: Program and Abstracts. February 18-22, 2013. Pg. 105.

Insecticides Required to Meet Consumer Demands for Blemish-Free Carrots in the EU

nasty carrots

Carrot Fly Damage

Carrot is one of the most important vegetable crops in the EU with 6 billion pounds of annual production. The carrot fly is the major insect pest of the carrot crop in Europe. Before the introduction of insecticides in the 1950s, the carrot fly typically damaged 20-50% of the carrots grown in Europe. In some parts of Europe, the damage from the carrot fly was so severe that it was not profitable to grow carrots. Today, European carrot growers spray insecticides to prevent damage from the carrot fly.

“Carrot fly, is the most widespread and serious pest of carrot, parsnip, parsley and certain other umbelliferous herbs in temperate regions of the world. … The insect has two and, in some parts of Britain, Europe and New Zealand, three generations each year. Adult insects feed on the nectar and pollen provided by flowers and spend most of their life in the hedgerows, ditches or amongst herbaceous plants in gardens. Females search out carrot plants to lay their eggs which are inserted in crevices around the crown of the host plant. The larvae, which emerge from the eggs, migrate downwards to feed on plant roots.

Carrots grown commercially can be rendered unmarketable by even slight carrot fly damage.

To meet the stringent levels of blemish-free produce demanded by the supermarkets in the UK and Europe, commercial carrot production depends precariously on a few insecticides to control this pest.”

Author: Ellis, P. R.
Affiliation: Horticulture Research International, UK.
Title: The identification and exploitation of resistance in carrots and wild Umbelliferae to the carrot fly, Psila rosae (F.)
Source: Integrated Pest Management Reviews. 1999. 4:259-268.

Europe Needs to Plan for Increased Need for Fungicides Due to Climate Change


The climate is changing in Europe with increasing temperatures predicted. Higher temperatures create improved conditions for the growth of fungi and infection of crops. More infection events will create the need for more fungicide use. Will European policymakers be ready?

“Here, we estimated the evolution of potential infection events of fungal pathogens of wheat, rice, and grape in Europe. …Our results show an overall increase in the number of infection events, with differences among the pathogens, and showing complex geographical patterns. For wheat, Puccinia recondite, or brown rust, is forecasted to increase +20-100% its pressure on the crop. Puccinia striiformis, or yellow rust, will increase 5-20% in the cold areas. Rice pathogens Pyricularia oryzae, or blast disease, and Bipolaris oryzae, or brown spot, will be favored all European rice districts, with the most critical situation in Northern Italy (+100%). For grape, Plasmopara viticola, or downy mildew, will increase +5-20% throughout Europe. …Our findings represents the first attempt to provide extensive estimates on disease pressure on crops under climate change, providing information on possible future challenges European farmers will face in the coming years.

On the whole, moving from the 2030 to the 2050 time frame, an increase in the number of potential infection events is expected. …Policy makers can use the outcomes of this study to be aware of possible future challenges to face when planning regional or local policies in terms of disease pressure and consequently of chemical control.”

Authors: Bregaglio, S., et al.
Affiliation: University of Milan.
Title: Fungal infections of rice, wheat, and grape in Europe in 2030-2050.
Source: Agron. Sustain. Dev. 2013. 33:767-776.




Europe Could Learn a Lot from US farmers about Using Fungicides on Corn Crops

Eyespot Disease on Maize Leaves

Eyespot Disease on Maize Leaves

Recently in the US, farmers have increasingly used fungicides on corn crops with a noticeable yield increase. There is significant corn (maize) acreage in Europe, but hardly even any research on fungicides. Recently, a European researcher experimented with fungicides and discovered the great potential of using fungicides for this overlooked problem.

“Since 2008, fungicide trials have been carried out by both the Danish advisory service (Knowledge Centre for Agriculture) and University of Aarhus to test the impact of fungicides on control of leaf diseases. In several of the trials, significant levels of diseases have occurred and significant yield responses have been obtained.

In 2009, a severe attack of northern corn leaf blight (E. turcicum) developed and 50% yield increases were accomplished from fungicide treatments in a number of trials. In 2011, a severe and early attack of Eyespot (K. zeae) developed in several trials and in that season yield increases between 50 to 60% were also achieved in grain maize crops in fields with minimal tillage with maize as the previous crop.

Based on good efficacy trials, the first fungicide epoxiconazole plus pyraclostrobin (as Opera) was authorized in Denmark for control of the leaf diseases in maize between detection of 3rd node and the tassels appearing at the top of the stem (BBCH GS 33-51).

For scientists, advisors and farmers, it was a surprise that yield reducing leaf diseases could play such a major role in the production of maize. When looking around Europe for information on this subject, we were slightly surprised that very little information on the use of fungicides was available. When looking around we also realized that in many countries no fungicides are authorized for control. Looking across to the US, which has long experiences with foliar diseases, there seem to be more knowledge available on disease management, including experiences from use of fungicides.”

Author: Jorgensen, L. N.
Affiliation: Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Title: Significant yield increases from control of leaf diseases in maize – an overlooked problem?!
Source: Outlooks on Pest Management. August 2012. Pgs.162-165.

Europe’s Wheat Yields Are the World’s Highest Due to Fungicide Use

Septoria leaf blotch

Septoria leaf blotch

In the EU, where high levels of subsidy supports are available, wheat crops are grown in an intensive manner. In Europe, 11% of the world cereal production comes from only 6% of the world’s cereal acreage. Since the 1990s, more than 95%of wheat acres in the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands have been treated with fungicides. Average responses to treatment usually range between 0.5t/ha and 2.5 t/ha though where Septoria tritica blotch pressure is particularly high, yield responses of 5 t/ha are sometimes seen.

Article 01:

“Mycosphaerella graminicola is the causal agent of Septoria leaf blotch (SLB), an important foliar disease of wheat in Europe. Due to a lack of durable host resistance, disease control relies predominantly on the use of fungicides.”

Article 02:

“Yields of cereal crops in Europe are among the highest in the world and the levels and consistency of these yields is in no small part due to the use of fungicides to control the major fungal pathogens.”

Article 01:

Author: Bean, T. P.
Affiliation: Rothamsted Research
Title: Amino Acid Alterations in CYP51 Contribute Toward Reduced Triazole Sensitivities in a UK Field Population of Mycosphaerella graminicola
Publication: The BCPC International Congress – Crop Science & Technology 2005

Article 02:

Author: Redbond, A.
Affiliation: Market Scope Europe Ltd
Title: Cereal Disease Control in Europe
Publication:  International Pest Control, September/October 2006

European Consumers Demand Perfect Oranges Making Fungicide Use Necessary

Alternaria Brown Spot

Alternaria Brown Spot

Spain is a major producer of fresh oranges which are consumed throughout Europe. Disease infections in the citrus orchards can result in spots on the orange peel with no damage to the fruit inside. However, consumers will not pay top price for spotted oranges making fungicide use necessary.

“Alternaria brown spot (ABS) is a severe fungal disease of some mandarins and their hybrids in rainy and semiarid citrus-growing areas. … The presence of ABS in Spain has become a serious problem for ‘Fortune’ mandarin production.”

“Defoliation due to spring infections weakens trees and has an important impact on yield. However, fruit damage causes the most important economic losses. Fruit symptoms include light brown, slightly depressed spots to circular and dark brown areas on the external surface.”

“Although cultural practices that improve ventilation and prevent the growth of lush foliage can greatly reduce disease severity in the orchard, fungicide applications are essential to produce quality fruit for the fresh market. One or two sprays generally are needed to protect spring flush foliage to reduce defoliation and prevent inoculum build-up.”

Authors: A. Vicent, J. Armengol and J. García-Jiménez
Affiliation: Instituto Agroforestal Mediterráneo, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Title: Rain fastness and persistence of fungicides for control of Alternaria brown spot of citrus.
Publication: Plant Disease. 2007. 91(4):393-399.

European Organic Wheat Suffers from “Stinking Smut”

Common bunt is one of the most destructive diseases of wheat. As the fungus grows in the plant, the wheat kernels are converted to bunt balls that, when crushed, release thousands of black spores. They smell of rotting fish, hence the name “stinking smut”. Because of effective chemical seed treatment, common bunt had become a forgotten disease—until its reemergence in European organic wheat.

“The legal requirement for organic seed has compounded the bunt problem in Europe. For many years, it was possible to use conventionally produced seed as long as the cultivars were not of transgenic origin and the seed had not been treated after harvest with synthetic fungicides. All of this changed with Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1452/2003, which stipulated that beginning January 2004, all plant materials used for organic agriculture must be produced under organic farming conditions.”

“In conventional agriculture, common bunt is often exclusively controlled with chemical seed treatments. … Now, more than half a century after common bunt was thought to be vanquished, it has re-emerged in organic wheat. … In the United Kingdom, organic seed lots are predominantly contaminated with common bunt spores.”

“Contamination of wheat with common bunt spores has resulted in considerable loss of yield and seed quality. … Given the epidemiology of the disease, it has the potential to cause economic devastation to low-input and organic farmers.”

Authors: J.B. Matanguihan, K.M. Murphy and S.S. Jones*
Affiliation: *Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University
Title: Control of Common Bunt in Organic Wheat.
Publication: Plant Disease. 2011. 95(2):92-103.