22 March 2002

NFRU survey shows disease pressure fall

CEREAL disease pressure dipped well below average last year, bucking the trend of the past decade.

The National Farm Research Unit survey shows that only 55% of the 2001 winter wheat crop received specific measures to control mildew, compared with the nine-year average of 72%.

"This dip in foliar diseases was most likely due to late drilling, the wet autumn, lower winter temperatures and the lack of spray days during the season," says the NFRUs Mike Heisig.

The survey found that a further 29% of winter wheat suffered from mildew but no specific measures were taken to control it.

Septoria tritici hit 46% of winter wheat sowings, most (85%) receiving specific controls.

Stem-based diseases were more common than usual, with eyespot reported in 43% of winter wheats. But only two-thirds of this was treated specifically, reports Mr Heisig.

"Farmers reported that take-all appeared to be increasing, with 31% of the winter wheat suffering in 2001, compared to 27% in 2000 and to 23% in the previous nine-year average."

Rhynchosporium was widespread in winter barley last season, identified in 76% of crops compared to 88% in 2000, and the nine-year average of 83%.

Net blotch was well down, occurring in 41% of the 2001 crop compared to 68% in 2000 and the long-term average of 58%.

"The key message is do not take the last years experiences as a benchmark for problems," advises Mr Heisig.

The NFRU National Crop Disease and Weed survey involves 5600 farmers across the UK. &#42