Can Decision Support Systems Help Improve the Sustainable Use of Fungicides in Wheat?
Wheat is one of the most economically important field crops worldwide. Foliar diseases are a major threat to wheat productivity and are primarily managed by implementing less susceptible cultivars and using fungicides. With the “Farm to Fork” strategy under consideration by the European Union to reduce pesticide usage by 50% by 2030, this elucidates the importance of utilizing decision support systems (DSS) to optimize fungicide applications. Therefore, three DSSs of different origins, namely the IPM-Wheat Model Schleswig-Holstein (scientific), the ISIP system (federal), and the xarvio© FIELD MANAGER (commercial), were analysed under maritime climate conditions at three locations in a high input area of wheat cultivation in northern Germany from 2019 to 2021. Fungicide efficacy was evaluated for yield as well as for the management of prevalent pathogens (Septoria tritici blotch, glume blotch, tan spot, powdery mildew, stripe rust, and leaf rust) on two different commercially available cultivars (highly and moderately susceptible). Compared to a stage-oriented standard system, no significant decrease in yield was observed in both cultivars, despite up to a 50% reduction in fungicide use through the use of DSSs. This was attributed to an optimized timing of fungicide applications, which resulted in slightly lower but still tolerable disease suppression efficacy compared to the stage-oriented system. In conclusion, minor disease severities are often overestimated, and DSSs can help improve the sustainability of fungicide use in wheat and pesticides in general.