24 May 2002

Ear disease mustnt

be allowed to hit income

Not sure whether a T3 ear

spray will be worthwhile

this year? Charles Abel

reports on a recent study

tour to Hungary which

highlighted compelling

reasons for making

such an application

MARKET forces, a dry spring and the drive for top yields all mean ear sprays will be more important than ever this year. If you are feeding grain to your own pigs or poultry it could be doubly important.

Fusarium ear blight, sooty moulds and late foliar disease can all hit grain quality and typically cut yield by 0.5t/ha. There are even suggestions that mycotoxins produced by fusarium can impair livestock performance.

With Europe destined to produce a huge wheat crop quality will be vital to secure export sales, warns Andrew Barnard, commercial director for Dalgety Arable. "If you do not have quality you cant compete in the market. It is probably going to be the single over-riding factor. It is your ticket to trade."

Intervention, the market of last resort, has tightened its intake specification, with 11.5% protein now the standard and a deduction of £4.70/t for a 1% shortfall, he notes.

Domestic buyers also require tighter specifications, to meet the fine-tuned needs of millers and bakers. Dalgety harvest results from 2001 show just 35% of Malacca made 12.5% protein, 250 Hagberg and 74kg/hl specific weight, for example. "The other 65% was rejected or took deductions. That just shows the need to improve consistency."

The good news is that it is not too late to boost yield and quality, says Dalgety agronomy manager Bob Bulmer. Late nitrogen, aphid and blossom midge control, pre-harvest glyphosate and an appropriate T3 fungicide will all help boost market prospects.

"The danger is that farmers had very poor fungicide responses last year, so have it in mind that there will be a repeat this year. But the year before we had a 1t/ha response to T3 sprays and the average is 0.5t/ha. Growers need to look at this as insurance.

"Dry springs favour fusarium, so if it rains at flowering we are likely to have a bad year for the disease."

His favoured approach is Amistar (azoxystrobin) plus Folicur (tebuconazole) to protect the ear and provide late foliar disease control, the triazole delivering 3-star fusarium control and the strob 3-star Microdochium control. To avoid strob overload Agate (tebuconazole + prochloraz) gives 4-star fusarium control and 2-star Microdochium. Rates should reflect variety and how robust earlier fungicide treatments were.

Results from 1997 field trials suggest 0.25 litres/ha each of Amistar and Folicur will give a £22/ha margin over cost, 0.5 litres/ha of Amistar £17/ha and the same rate of Folicur £11/ha.

Caramba (metconazole) also controls fusarium, but costs more owing to limited availability through UAP, Masstock and ProCam/CSC, notes Bayers Neil Waddingham. "Folicur at £18-20/litre will be more cost effective." Twist (trifloxystrobin) offers similar Microdochium nivale control to Amistar, he adds. &#42

Fusarium pressure is so severe in Eastern Europe that helicopters are used to ensure ear sprays are applied on schedule. Contract application on this 7,000ha Hungarian state farm using Russian-built twin-engine, twin rotor machines costs £3/ha and covers 800ha/day. "We can get round all the susceptible wheat on the day it flowers," says agronomy manager Joseph Berdy (top right). In 1998 the farms entire wheat crop still failed to meet the 2% limit for fusarium-infected grain following a wet harvest. Four screenings to remove shrivelled infected grains finally ensured the crop secured the minimum guaranteed price, but the 15% screenings had to be destroyed. Avoiding wheat after highly infectious maize, ploughing stubbles down, timely spraying with a Folicur-type spray and less susceptible varieties all help. But the disease remains the number one worry in the farms wheat crop. "It would be a problem if we wanted to export milling wheat to western Europe," admits cropping manager Joseph Sziladi. Resistant varieties can help, notes world fusarium expert Akos Mesterhazy (bottom right).

&#8226 0.5t/ha yield boost.

&#8226 Quality vital for sales.

&#8226 Timing and dose issues.

&#8226 Angled nozzles help.

&#8226 Reduce mycotoxin risks.