31 August 2001

ICMINACTION: 10

Disease resistance

Use all the information available to ensure you are getting the most from varietal disease resistance, urges Ian Crute of IACR-Rothamsted.

Growers now have access to data showing them how to integrate resistance with other control methods, allowing them to reduce inputs, safeguard the environment and protect margins, he explains.

Local prevalence of disease is important. "Growers will know the particular risks in their area, so should plan varietal choice and diversity around this."

Genetic resistance is extremely specific, so new strains of a disease can be an unexpected problem, he admits. "But plant breeders have made great progress and disease resistance is more of a priority now."

Mildew in barley is a good example. "Fifteen years ago, mildew was the main threat to barley yields. Thanks to the introduction of a new resistance gene its importance has now diminished."

For the future Prof Crute believes chemical and software developments will help growers exploit genetic resistance further.

"There is a range of chemicals known as plant activators which work by stimulating the plants natural defence mechanisms. In time, they will add another dimension."

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