Andrew-MeltonAndrew Melton

Winter barley growers are being warned that disease levels in the expanded area of the crop this season could easily explode with showery April weather.

Agronomist Andrew Melton at distributor Frontier says a relatively mild winter means crops in Norfolk, where he is based, are harbouring high levels of mildew, net blotch and rhynchosporium.

“There could be an explosion of disease if we get wet weather in the build-up to Easter. Historically, the Easter weekend is always wet in Norfolk,” he says.

See also: How to fight four barley yield-killer diseases

Mr Melton adds that disease can knock yields by up to 40%, and he believes fungicide mixes, including SDHI products, are the only way to keep disease out of crops.

This season is set to see more land going into barley, with the HGCA early-bird survey forecasting the winter barley area will be up 12% and spring barley 9% at the expense of crops such as oilseed rape and sugar beet.

Mr Melton’s approach is to apply a T0 fungicide spray on winter barley in March, if required, of a half rate of a morpholine, such as fenpropimorph or spiroxamine, to go into April with clean crops.

The cornerstone of his T1 fungicide programme will be the straight SDHI penthiopyrad, plus an appropriate azole such as prothioconazole, as he likes the flexibility to tweak rates in the mixture to suit different varieties and farms.