Czech Republic: Crop Protection against fungal pathogenes in cereals

How has the protection against fungal pathogenes in cereals developed within the last 20 years?

Considering the cultivated area, cereals are among the most widely grown crops in the Czech Republic. The success in growing cereals depends on several factors, including efficient protection against fungal pathogens. Not only do those infections have a negative impact on final yield each year, but they are also responsible for lower grain quality. This is why it is crucial to spray cereals with efficacious fungicides in order to minimize those risks.

However, the ways to protect against fungal diseases has undergone distinctive changes in the past years. On one hand, new varieties of cereals have been introduced to on the market which have a high yield potential but need an intensive fungicide protection.  On the other hand, farmers started growing cereal varieties with a higher resistence against selected fungal pathogens. These developments influence the portfolio of approved active ingredients and products, which consists of both broad spectrum fungicides as well as specialized products with high efficacy against one particular fungal infection.

What are the trends in the number of fungicide treatments and treated area?

If we exam the protection of cereals against fungal pathogens over the last 20 years we can observe some changes in agrotechnical measures applied by the Czech farmers. First of all, let us explain several factors we consider in our analysis of treatments intensity. NET, alias netto area refers to absolute number of hectares treated with a particular type of crop protection product.

Since the cultivated area of cereals noticeably decreased within the past 20 years of our research, we will compare the intensity of fungicide sprays by using the NET rate, which stands for a relative share of the fungicide treated area out of total cultivated area (NET/TCA). The last factor we use in this article is "number of treatments per hectare", which is calculated as "number of hectares treated by tractor (TTA)" divided by netto area (NET).

As shown in graph no. 1, the key milestone in the development of the protection against fungal infection in cereals is the entry to the European Union in 2004. With the exception of 2002, Czech farmers used to apply on average 1.2 fungicide sprays in cereals before the EU was enlarged by the Czech Republic. Also the annual share of fungicide treated area (NET rate) was less than 60% of the cultivated area in 1994-2003. However, after becoming a member of the European Union and being provided with subsidies, farmers started investing more into fungicide products. Thus, in 2004 the number of fungicide treatments per hectare increased to 1.41 and the fungicidally treated area grew to 65% of cultivated area. Generally speaking, since the entry to the EU the average number of fungicide treatments per hectare has been 1.52 and the share of fungicidally treated area has been around 72% on average.

Of course, there are several factors influencing the intensity of chemical crop protection, whether it is weather conditions, disease pressure, commodity prices, product prices and so on, whose impact we could read from our data. Among those factors the influence of the economic situation is also evident. Aside from 2004, we notice this influence in 2009 and 2010 too when Czech agriculture fell into deep depression caused not only by general economic recession, but also by low commodity prices. As we can see on the graph (graph no. 2), after a successful year in 2008, Czech farmers were struggling with an unfavourable financial situation, which is one of the reasons of decreasing intensity of fungicide treatment. Thus, in 2008 farmers applied two sprays on 40% of fungicide treated area, in 2009 it was on only 30% of area and in 2010 on only 28% of area. Accordingly, in 2010 the share of area with only 1 fungicide spray increased to 70% comparing to 53% of area in 2008. For the last 3 years the intensity of fungicide treatments has kept increasing and we observe an increasing trend of applying three and more fungicide sprays.

Graph 1: Development of fungicide treated area along with an average number of treatments per hectare

Graph 2: Share of number of fungicide treatments on fungicidally treated area

Graph 3: Share of active ingredients on gungicidally treated area

What changes have occured within the active ingredients portfolio?

As we have already mentioned above, we have witnessed significant changes in the protection against fungal diseases in cereals. In 1994, when we carried out the first panel research in cereals in the Czech Republic, we registered about 18 fungicide products.  In 2015 the number of fungicides rose to around 88 different products. Regarding applied fungal sprays in 2015, the main active ingredients used were DMI (Demethylation-inhibiting) substances, i.e. triazoles and imidazoles, then compounds from the group morpholines, benzimidazoles and strobilurins. Farmers treated about 91% of the cereal area that was sprayed by fungicides in the previous year with active ingredients belonging to those groups,  (source: Kleffmann Group, Cereals panel research 2015).

The biggest and most significant chemical compounds group long-term is triazoles (see graph 3), which has been applied on average on more than 50% of the treated area within the last 20 years of our research (source: Kleffmann Group, Cereals panel research 1995-2015). In 2015 farmers sprayed about 63% of the area treated with fungicides with triazoles. The most significant active substances belonging to this group are:

  • propiconazole (on average applied on 25% of the treated area in 1995-2015)
  • epoxiconazole (on average applied on 23% of the treated area in 1995-2015)
  • tebuconazole (on average applied on 19% of the treated area in 1995-2015)
  • cyproconazole (on average applied on 12% of the treated area in 1995-2015)

The use of these active ingredients is rather stable in the examined 20 year-period. When it comes to products containing those active ingredients, in 2015 Czech farmers treated the greatest area of cereals with:

  • Hutton (tebuconazole and prothioconazole plus compounds group spiroketalamine)
  • Tango Super (epoxiconazole plus compounds group morphines)
  • Osiris (epoxiconazole and metconazole)
  • Artea Plus (cyproconazole and propiconazole)

Farmers pay around 23 mEUR for these four products (applied amount), which is more than one third of all costs spent on fungicide sprays in the previous year.

Looking further at the development of the active ingredients portfolio, we also witness two significant changes: First, the market penetration of products with spiroketalamine in 2000 and second, expiration of active substance flusilazole in 2014. Regarding spiroketalamine, the first product launched to the Czech market was Falcon, which is efficient especially against rust (Uredinales). Other products with spiroketalamine used by the Czech farmers are Hutton (already mentioned) and Impulse Super (spiroketalamine plus compounds group triazole), which were launched in 2011. Considering flusilazole usage, in the researched period (1995-2000) products with this active ingredient were applied on average on 20% of treated area. The most popular flusilazole products among farmers were Alert S and Capitan 25 EW. However, after 2000 we experienced a significant drop in the amount of this active ingredient applications, and in 2014 we saw such products in our research for the very last time.

For the last 3 years the intensity of fungicide treatments has kept rising and we have observed an increasing trend of applying three and more fungicide sprays. Considering the fact, that Czech agriculture achieved very good economic results in the previous two years (in 2015 Czech agriculture profitted about 626 mEUR and in 2014 it gained record 861,5 mEUR), we could expect even more intense fungicide protection in the future.


Kateřina Prusková

Project Manager AMIS

Kleffmann Group Czech Republic