Dutch potato producers have been accused of putting the efficacy of the industryâ€™s limited number of fungicides at risk through â€œirresponsibleâ€ practices.
Growers attending the SAC Association of Potato Producers conference at Scone heard independent agronomist Denis Buckley describe the Dutch approach to fungicide application as â€œinsane and irresponsibleâ€, even as the industry â€œhangs on for dear lifeâ€ to the crop protection products at its disposal.
â€œThey use fungicides intensively in isolation and the result is theyâ€™re pushing the blight fungus towards either resistance or reduced sensitivity to those fungicides,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re not using mixtures, but blocks of single active products or ingredients.â€
He warned the loss of key fungicide groups meant late blight remains the biggest single threat to global potato production, and predicted the attitude of industry regulators would only change in the event of a food shortage.
â€œIf we get stuck by blight in potatoes or downy mildew in onions and thereâ€™s widespread crop failure, weâ€™ll get a sudden change of attitude, and within the legislation thereâ€™s provision to grant emergency approvals for chemicals that havenâ€™t gone through the full regulatory process.â€
Mr Buckley held out little hope of genetics solving the late blight threat, and said despite new varieties being bred, they would not provide a complete solution. He added: â€œIt takes 10 years to find out the Achilles heels of new varieties, and we wouldnâ€™t want to start with a clean sheet of paper with a farm full of new varieties.