Norfolk adviser warns of potential disease threat to wheat crops

Hall Farm, WickmerePeter Riley (Prime Agriculture LLP)For a feature by Michael PollittFor:EDPCopy:Mi

Hall Farm, WickmerePeter Riley (Prime Agriculture LLP)For a feature by Michael PollittFor:EDPCopy:Michael Pollitt - Credit: Colin Finch

A significant percentage of wheat in eastern England was drilled in September and was in good condition, said award-winning Norfolk agronomist Peter Riley.

And with the current high price of wheat, it was worth investing in crops to realise its full potential, he said.

'The wheat hasn't got the massive growth of last year, but that is a good thing and the majority of crops are certainly looking satisfactory, with most having four tillers.

'We need to protect these tillers as well as promoting and retaining green leaf area with an early and robust programme of fungicides and plant growth regulators,' said Mr Riley, of Prime Agriculture.

On the farm, he had seen little septoria or rusts, even on those varieties with low susceptibility so far this season.

'There is nothing untoward at the moment, but in order to make sure crops have a strong early start and are able to make the most of their tillers, a robust T0 treatment of a rust-active triazole plus a multi-site fungicide is advisable, particularly if no seed treatment was applied.

'Disease-wise, the T0 treatment focuses on septoria, yellow rust, plus some mildew and eyespot. With the cold and wet conditions I would expect to see more yellow rust coming through,' said Mr Riley.

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He advised the use of an early PGR to help promote extra rooting, reduce apical dominance and increase tillering. 'Crops are looking more normal in terms of size and development than this time last year, when crops were far too big in the early spring, but they need managing.'

Clare Tucker, of BASF, said that growers should be focusing on early nitrogen, early plant growth regulator and fungicide. 'Once crops start to perk up, nitrogen will be applied, followed by the first PGR once the crop has started to tiller.

'The T0 timing, Growth Stage 30, will also be important for PGR use to help retain the tillers produced and further encourage rooting. Adding a fungicide will protect the lower leaves.

'It is important to set the crops up as well as we can right from the start. Some later-sown crops will have less green leaf area than optimum, but it is absolutely vital to protect what we have and keep it going for as long as possible.

But mildew could be more of a problem this year, with poor root systems if it turns drier.

She says that the current price of wheat is buoyant and growers are keen to take advantage of this by growing as much as they can and taking good care of crops in the ground.

'The price of wheat will more than compensate for the potential drop in yield from later drilled wheat. Spring crops generally are more dependent on the weather conditions to perform. Winter crops deliver more dependable yields, especially when carefully managed.'

Mr Riley said that some growers were still planting wheat and those sown in December are only just coming through.

'But with the price of wheat, a medium performing winter wheat crop will still produce a positive outcome, so it is still worthwhile looking after your wheat when it comes to disease.

'Later drilled wheats may be more susceptible to mildew, so a mildew specific fungicide may also be needed.

'In the east we are still growing a significant area of Oakley and Torch and are totally confident that we can keep on top of disease and that they will continue to yield well.'