Septoria risk tool could help guide fungicide strategies

Growers will be able to tailor their fungicide spray strategies according to the likely risk of septoria in their area using a new digital agronomy tool.

By comparing three weeks of local weather data against five years of data, collected by digital agronomy brand Rhiza across trial sites in the UK, it is claimed to be the first tool capable of forecasting septoria risk.

Both the treated and untreated yields of multiple varieties have been analysed at 10 sites to determine the probable risk of septoria spreading throughout the season in different weather conditions.

See also: What the decline in fungicide performance means for wheat growers

Wetter conditions favour its spread as disease moves from lower leaves to upper ones by rain splash, while very dry conditions like last season can reduce risk.

Although the tool doesn’t take variety choice, drill date or historical fungicide applications into account, it should help growers and their agronomists take a protective approach to their disease strategies, says Clare Bend, head of technical at Rhiza parent company Agrii.

“Anything that can help us move to a protective approach rather than a curative one has to be a good thing.” Especially as there is little curative activity with current wheat fungicides.

“The other elements, such as varietal choice, which is the most important element of a protective approach, will be taken into account in discussions between growers and their agronomist.”

New digital brand

Rhiza was officially launched at the start of this month to offer growers a range of digital agronomy options by combining existing companies SoilQuest and IPF.

Ranging from enabling growers to log geo-referenced field-walking observations through the Contour app, to using satellite imagery to give a “health report” of a cropping area, Rhiza offers growers an affordable alternative to committing fully to precision techniques.

Simon Beck, head of digital at Origin Enterprises, which is developing the technology available through Rhiza, points to the high cost and the need to see a return on investment as a barrier to the uptake of precision agriculture.

However, a feed wheat yield increase of just 0.02t/ha would cover the cost of crop growth modelling, yield prediction and pest and disease decision support tools available through Rhiza.

A tool that will predict the effect of variety choice, drill date and seed rate on blackgrass populations over a period of time, based on 15 years of trial data at Agrii’s Stow Longa trial site, will be added later this year.

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