Pea growers facing severe downy mildew in their crops could find a nutrient spray may help, suggests a Lincs farm manager.

There are no approved foliar fungicides for controlling the disease, noted the Processors and Growers Research Organisation’s Anthony Biddle.

Two seasons ago, just as 20ha (50 acres) of Waverex vining peas were about to flower, David Walker of Lincolnshire Field Produce found downy mildew had hit the crop hard, leaving it with black stems and shrivelled leaves.

“It turned from being very healthy to a virtual write-off in only four days,” he said.

To try to save it he applied Vitomex, an NPK plus trace element mix.

The result was a remarkable turn-around leading to a yield of 4t/ha (32cwt/acre), well above that season’s average, he said.

“The fact that the weather warmed up and probably burnt off a lot of the spores had a part to play, but the Vitomex was definitely a key component in bringing the crop round.”

Since the demise of dinoseb in 1982, which gave “brilliant control” of the disease, pea downy mildew has always been troublesome, especially if secondary infection takes hold in cool humid weather, said Dr Biddle.

“We’re always screening everything that looks as though it could help as it’s a real problem, and we’ll be looking at various products again this season.”