Variety route to ergot purge

GROWERS STRIVING to keep ergot out of quality wheat samples have been advised to seek out the right variety.

As planting decisions for autumn 2004 get underway, breeders CPB Twyford advised those with an ergot problem to choose a closed-flowering wheat.

True resistance to the fungal growth, that is increasingly the cause of rejections, is not readily available, said the company‘s technical manager, Chris Tapsell.

But a closed-flowering variety leaves the floret less open and less prone to infection.

A key breeding objective for CPBT, it is one of the characteristics of its new Group 2 wheat Cordiale, said Dr Tapsell.

“Because it is very fast maturing, nine times out of ten Cordiale comes to anthesis (flowering) before the period when ergot spores are released,” he added.

Grass weed control is important since ergot is commonly harboured by wild grasses, such as blackgrass and ryegrass.

When cool wet conditions correspond with flowering, ergot spores, released from host weeds, can infect wheat ears.

Ploughing can also help by burying the spores, which will only survive for one season in soil.

But with the move to min till cultivation systems, this route to control is being compromised.

“Really, there is no excuse for ergot infection in wheats,” said Dr Tapsell.

“By selecting the right variety and cultural methods, rejections should be very rare on most UK farms.

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