Archive Article: 1997/07/19

19 July 1997

Emotions turn red

on yellow rust

I do enjoy your Comment column for its similarity to Private Eye, with its interesting tank mix of controversy, insight and outrageous inaccuracy.

A good example was "Green about yellow rust" in Crops 21 June issue in which you stated that "no-one accurately predicted this summers problems".

Well, where were you last August when we issued the following warning: "UK farmers are this week warned by one of Europes leading plant breeders of a potential crash in the yellow rust resistance of many promising new winter wheat varieties now that the disease has overcome the Yr17 resistance gene"?

And where were you when we announced results of our survey showing 50% of varieties in NL trials have been bred from varieties containing the discredited gene?

What about our representations to NIAB last September about "a regrettable lowering of disease resistance standards" in some new varieties, in programme trials, for the Recommended List?

Our concern was based on an analysis that showed that at least six potential commercial varieties had very low resistance to yellow rust – some even below the minimum standards set by NIAB.

Then in December our wheat breeder, Bill Angus, sent you a letter voicing his concern about a survey of farmers – the results of which suggested they did not regard yellow rust as a problem.

In the letter, Bill predicted that varieties with low resistance would in 1997 "demand the highest levels of inputs and suffer consequential costs". Our concern last year was based on fact and turned out to be well-founded.

Frank Curtis,

Nickerson Seeds, Joseph Nickerson Research Centre, Rothwell, Lincoln, LN7 6DT.

More on rust

I would like to point out that the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) warned of unusually high incidence of early yellow rust in April.

We warned that despite the hot drought conditions early on, heavy dews in the mornings were allowing rust spores to germinate rapidly and spread infection. Warm daytime temperatures then increased the spread by reducing the latent period dramatically. The spring this year was actually near perfect for yellow rust development.

Philip Stigwood,

UKCPVS, NIAB, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge.

A complementary

double act

Your editorial "Seeing double on research", 21 June, suggests two projects which are funded primarily by MAFF or HGCA duplicate effort. In fact, the two projects complement each other.

The HGCA-funded work extends ongoing research on "precision farming" and intends to provide practical guidelines for managing in-field variability.

When the five year MAFF LINK project – "Yield mapping as an aid to targeting fertiliser inputs in combinable crops" began three years ago, it was regarded as a pioneering project.

HGCA approved funding its five year project fully aware of the LINK work. Levy funds would not have been deployed unless promising results were emerging from the original project and other studies. Led by Silsoe College, much of the field work is carried out by Arable Research Centres at four locations in England.

Many of the same experts were involved in early discussions about both sets of farming trials. Also Massey Ferguson is a co-sponsor of both projects – hardly likely if substantial duplication was perceived.

A MAFF observer attends meetings of HGCAs R&D advisory committees to ensure as full a liaison as possible between MAFF and HGCA funding in these areas.

The use of yield maps and their relationship with field variables is a new research topic.

It is essential that results from one trial are verified at different sites and conditions. If maps are misinterpreted, either the wrong inputs can be targeted or inappropriate decisions about optimum treatment levels may be taken.

Therefore, rather than duplicating effort, we have close co-operation to both develop the principles of precision farming and practical ways of making the most of this new technology.

Dr Paul Meakin,

Acting Head of Research, HGCA, Highgate Hill, London, N19 5PR.

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