5 April 1996

Dont let complacency over disease control trim profits

FARMERS have become too complacent about disease control, says Mike Carver, director of Arable Research Centres.

They have been lucky to get away with low doses, poor timing and a disregard for variety management, he believes.

"There is a frightening level of complacency in the industry, brought about by the arrival of better fungicides and a couple of seasons where it has been all too easy to get good control of disease. Farmers tend to look at how much they spent per hectare on disease control the previous year and trim rates accordingly."

Newer fungicides are still relatively untested on a farm scale against high disease levels, he warns. And many farmers now use them in low dose programmes.

"We have not had sufficient disease to put these to the test. There is too much short-term information out there.

"People could get blown out of the water if they start fooling around with dose rates too much in a normal season."

Yellow rust is a big potential threat this year, he warns; 30% of the wheat area is "technically susceptible" to it. "We do not know how real that threat is. A lot of farmers could get a very great surprise if they do not attack timings correctly and they meddle with rates."

Growers need to respond quickly if they are using low doses and disease strikes. As farm size increases, that capability will cease to exist, says Dr Carver. "Farmers will not be able to motor around their farms at the same rate as they can today."

ARC director Mike Carver detects a frightening level of complacency among farmers over disease control.