Rapid septoria test helps wheat growers cut fungicide costs

A new rapid test is set to help farmers save money on their fungicide bill, by detecting septoria in wheat crops before symptoms are visible.

Septoria is considered to be the biggest threat to wheat crops in the UK, causing yield losses in excess of 30%. This is because the disease reduces the ability of the wheat plant to produce energy.

However, it has a long latent period where it grows inside the leaf for weeks (20-plus days) before becoming visible on the surface as yellow blotches and black dots.

See also: 3 high-tech gadgets for monitoring crop diseases

This makes it difficult to target fungicides, as infection can be lurking undetected. To help farmers, Microgenetics has developed a rapid test that takes just six hours from the start of the process.

The company claims it is very sensitive to even early infections of septoria, where only a small amount of fungal matter is present.

Andrew Davies, Microgenetics managing director, said farmers/agronomists can send samples using a standard next-day mail service and receive results as soon as 24 hours after posting.

He believes it will enable growers to save on fungicide costs by opting for cheaper products where the risk is low. Conversely, where the disease is detected, farmers can target it with a beefed-up spray programme.

After proving the technology, this year the company is looking for farmers and other partners to take part in a testing pilot, where they will receive their next-day results free of charge.

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