Excalia: Aussie Potato Growers First to Fight Black Scurf

Australian potato growers have become the first in the world to access Excalia, a groundbreaking new fungicide released by Sumitomo Chemical Australia. This innovative product aims to combat Rhizoctonia solani, commonly known as black scurf, which is the leading disease affecting potato production. The launch of Excalia follows a decade of rigorous trials and regulatory processes, marking a significant milestone for the agricultural sector.

Rhizoctonia solani is a notorious soil-borne fungus that attacks not only potatoes but also other crops in rotation. The fungus targets the tubers, underground stems, and stolons of potato plants, manifesting as black or brown masses of sclerotia on the surface of tubers. However, the most damaging phase of the disease often goes unnoticed, occurring underground where it attacks the tender sprouts before they emerge from the soil. This subterranean assault can severely impact the marketable yield of potato crops, a critical agricultural commodity for Australia.

Jock Leys, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Sumitomo Chemical Australia, emphasized the widespread nature of Rhizoctonia solani across the industry. “It can have a devastating impact on the marketable yield of an important crop for Australia, which produces potatoes over some 30,000 hectares,” Leys stated. He also highlighted that Rhizoctonia solani is among a suite of five or six prevalent diseases that pose a threat to potato production.

The introduction of Excalia comes after three years of in-field screening and trials conducted by Sumitomo Chemical Australia to ensure its efficacy. Leys noted that growers who have trialed Excalia have reported significant improvements. “Growers who’ve tried it have reported a lack of lesions and an improvement in yield, with one in Tasmania citing an increase of 18 tons per hectare above the grower standard fungicide,” he said.

Excalia is applied as an in-furrow spray at the time of planting, making it a convenient addition to existing farming practices. Leys pointed out the economic benefits of using Excalia, stating, “Return on investment is high – with increases in economic return many times above the approximate AUS $50 (US $33.5) per hectare to put it into the program.”

The fungicide is synthesized at one of Sumitomo Chemical Japan Co’s three discovery research centers before being shipped to Australia for domestic manufacture, packaging, and distribution. This international collaboration underscores the global effort to support agricultural innovation and sustainability.

In addition to its efficacy against Rhizoctonia solani, Excalia has also proven effective against Yellow Sigatoka, a key disease in bananas. This dual capability further enhances its value to the agricultural industry, offering a versatile solution to some of the most persistent challenges faced by growers.

The launch of Excalia represents a significant advancement in the fight against soil-borne diseases, providing Australian potato growers with a powerful tool to protect their crops and improve yields. As the first to access this new fungicide, Australian farmers are poised to set a new standard in potato production, potentially influencing agricultural practices worldwide.

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