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  1. Cutting back on the T3 ear wash fungicide before properly assessing disease risk could compromise your entire wheat disease control programme, leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons says.

    Relatively low disease pressure so far this spring combined with lower grain prices is leading many to look for potential cost savings, with the T3 spray often regarded as an obvious target, especially as fungicide spend shifts to the earlier timings.

    But technical development director David Ellerton says it is impossible to predict disease pressure on the ear until very close to ear emergence and growers must be prepared to tailor fungicide programmes to prevailing conditions nearer the time, rather than making premature plans to cut back.

    “Generally disease pressure so far has been lower than last year which was exceptional particularly in terms of Septoria, but we are now into a spell of more unsettled weather and things can change very quickly, as we experienced in 2012. Up until mid-April [2012] we were in a drought, yet it turned out to be a very bad year for both foliar and ear diseases with many growers powerless to do anything about it with a serious lack of spraying opportunities.

    “Lack of late disease control on the ear risks both yield and quality and can undo all the hard work and investment of earlier sprays.”

    Kent-based agronomist James Short agrees, adding: “Given how unpredictable our weather can be, every season potentially has a sting in the tail, so it is foolish to risk compromising the considerable investment in crops to date by not putting a T3 on.

    “There is obviously a lot of focus at T3 on managing fusarium risk in quality wheats and varieties with premium potential, but all crops will benefit if disease pressure builds. There may be some flexibility on products and dose rates for straight feed varieties though.”

    In high disease pressure situations, such as 2012, the yield benefit from a T3 spray can be up to 0.75t/ha, although Dr Ellerton acknowledges its contribution to both yield and quality may be much lower under less severe pressure.

    “There may well be scope to cut back on later sprays, but only do so according to disease risk at the time. The idea of taking a protectant approach to septoria with the T0 and T1 spray is identical to the concept of using the T3 to protect against sooty moulds or Fusarium/Microdochium, whether you’re growing for feed or milling.”

    Target Disease and Milling

    Fusarium ear blight, Microdochium nivale and sooty moulds are the three main targets for ear wash fungicides, although there may also be a need to top-up foliar action depending on disease pressure and the effectiveness of the flag leaf spray, Dr Ellerton says.

    Weather during June and July, has the biggest impact on the type of ear diseases most likely to develop, with cool, wet conditions favouring Microdochium, while Fusarium (and associated mycotoxins) thrives in warm, wet weather.

    Rusts can also be an issue at this stage. Warm weather often initiates late brown rust infection while yellow rust prefers cooler conditions and can infect the ear of susceptible varieties. This is something to be increasingly vigilant for due to the emergence of the aggressive, fast-developing Warrior race, he notes.

    Timing of the T3 spray is not as growth stage specific as the T1 or T2 applications, but still requires close attention.

    “You must wait until the ear is fully emerged and apply fungicides just before rain is due. If it stays dry you can afford to leave the ear exposed a little longer, but once it rains spores will start germinating and disease will take off, so make sure you allow enough time to get around and treat all crops in time.

    “Remember that applying the T3 too soon could mean it runs out of steam early and may require a follow-up (T4) to protect crops during the grain filling period. If that does happen, it’ll be a repeat of similar products, but don’t forget to check the harvest intervals and cut-off dates for latest application.”
    david ellerton says it is impossible to predict disease pressure on the ear
    Product Choice and Timing

    Dr Ellerton says an effective SDHI-based flag leaf spray should sufficiently control most foliar problems, allowing growers to focus T3 products on specific ear diseases.

    Prothioconazole-based fungicides are most effective against Microdochium and will also do a good job against fusarium and top-up septoria control, he says.

    Metconazole and tebuconazole are less effective against Microdochium, but are strong against Fusarium and sooty moulds, while tebuconazole is also his favoured option for controlling late yellow rust.

    Prothioconazole-based ear wash sprays are also the preferred option for Mr Short, who says products containing prothioconazole in mix with fluoxastrobin or tebuconazole offer better protection against rusts than straight prothioconazole.

    He favours a slightly earlier T3 application before flowering to protect grain quality in ears and top-up disease control on the flag leaf.

    Strobilurin-based products are another option at T3, offering control of sooty moulds and both types of rust, as well as for green leaf retention, although they generally have limited efficacy against Fusarium and Microdochium, adds Dr Ellerton.

    “Tailor product choice or combinations of products to disease risk at the time and the weather. Unless we end up in a prolonged drought and know for sure it will stay dry, then it’s probably worth playing it safe and at least applying a dose of a relatively cheap fungicide at T3.”

    *Growers are also advised to assess the risk of mycotoxins by using the HGCA risk calculator. This risk can be reduced by use of appropriate ear fungicides. See



  2. A cold slow start to spring and tough markets have proved challenging for the six student teams fighting it out to grow the most profitable crop of rye in the 2015 Cereals Challenge.

    Six plots of rye have been officially handed over to the student teams to manage through to the final judging during the Cereals Event. The Cereals Challenge plots are based at the 2015 Cereals site at Boothby Graffoe.

    The student teams have complete responsibility for the plots from mid-February until the day before the Cereals event in June, when they will be judged by Keith Norman, technical director at Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of Hutchinsons, and Alastair Priestley – managing director of Patrick Dean Ltd, this years’ Cereals host farm.
    “With rye not being a mainstream crop, this year’s challenge is particularly demanding - the teams will need to think like real time agronomists and respond to both crop and seasonal demands using a range of resources – and they will also need to justify their recommendations with an eye on the final gross margin!” says Andrew Mortimer, of Velcourt, who looks after the plots on a day-day basis.
    cereals challenge 2015 may
    Alice Cannon, team captain for the Newcastle University team, says that the slow start to the spring has meant that the team have had to think more carefully about early applications to the crop. “We applied early nitrogen but it has been very dry since so we really need some rain to get the nitrogen down into the rooting zone to give the rye the boost that it needs.  But at the same time we are conscious of the high risk of lodging of the crop so we are trying to get the balance right- and we are prepared to spend to keep the crop standing.”

    “There were some early signs of disease, mildew was the most obvious, but we hope that we have dealt with that in the T0 spray that went on and the imminent T1 spray. We have planned the T2 sprays to keep protectant levels up, but will visit the site beforehand to see what we are dealing with and be prepared to make changes as required.
    The Newcastle team believe that the hardest part of the challenge is selling the grain as this is not something they have much experience in and the market is so unpredictable and volatile.

    The team of students from Nottingham University have been surprised how tall the rye is. “We know rye is a tall crop - but we weren't expecting it to be as tall as it is already. We are hoping that our PGR's will work effectively and prevent our plot from falling over – particularly as it's in the middle of the Cereals show ground for everyone to see!“ says James Driffield, team captain. “Our concerns are less about the crop itself, but more about the current prices as I'm sure most farmers will be.“

    Bill Meredith, head of agriculture at Riseholme College, believes that the Cereals Challenge is an excellent opportunity for students to involve themselves in the real time decision making processes that agronomists and growers make on a daily basis. “The fact that the winning team must produce the highest profit, and take into consideration the marketing of the crop, makes the challenge all the more realistic - and this is exactly what the teams are finding in this years challenge.”

    The winning team will be announced at the Cereals Event, at 11am on the 10th June at the Velcourt stand.