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New disease surveillance programme aims to help wheat growers across East Anglia

06:00 15 July 2014

Rosemary Bayles and Jim Carswell at the launch of the crop trials

Rosemary Bayles and Jim Carswell at the launch of the crop trials

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A new surveillance programme to help East Anglian wheat growers achieve cost-effective control of disease through the best-informed variety choice and fungicide use has been launched by research-led agronomy firm Agrii this summer.

The Agrii National Cereal Disease Survey (ANCDS) complements and extends the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) and the HGCA Recommended List variety resistance ratings to help growers of the crop combat rusts and Septoria.

It provides real-time seasonal disease development observations from untreated plots of key wheat varieties grown in the same conditions at a large number of locations from Aberdeen in the northeast to Truro in the south west.

Following piloting with 36 varieties grown across four East Anglian sites and 10 other national locations in the current season, the survey is being extended and developed into an annual programme from this autumn.

“Recent experience reinforces just how rapidly variety disease resistance can be overcome by changes in a pathogen like yellow rust,” said wheat consultant, Bill Angus at the new programme’s launch.

“What’s more, today’s very narrow genetic base arguably makes us more vulnerable to such changes than at any time since the disastrous Rothwell Perdix breakdown of 1967.

“Yes, we are growing a far wider range of varieties. But so many of them are so closely related that we are relying on perilously few yellow rust resistance genes. It only takes a quick glance at the pedigrees, for instance, to reveal that fully 58% of the Nabim Group 3 and Group 4 varieties on the current Recommended List have Robigus in their parentage.”

Although inevitably historic and from a limited number of untreated sites, Mr Angus stressed that the Recommended List disease resistance ratings from HGCA and diversification data from UKCPVS provide a vital information base for agronomists and growers.

Mr Angust and consultant cereal pathologist Dr Rosemary Bayles have been working with the Agrii research team to establish and develop the new surveillance programme.

“It’s all about agronomic risk management,” said Agrii R&D manager, Jim Carswell.

“We will be providing our agronomists and growers with the most up-to-date in-season intelligence on the development of yellow and brown rust and Septoria tritici in the wheats they are growing.

“Information from our local sites will provide an early warning system, enabling East Anglian growers to keep ahead of disease development with the best possible fungicide programme planning and management. Along with data from our other sites across the country, it will also ensure they have the very latest information on the resistance status of varieties they may be considering growing to inform their decision-making ahead of autumn planting.

“Yellow rust was something we didn’t really see in the north not so long ago,” he added. “At the end of January this year, though, 68% of varieties in our Bishop Burton Technology Centre plots were showing infection. We’ve been recording big differences in infection levels between varieties in our Perth and Aberdeen plots too; and yellow rust is also becoming more evident at our south western sites. In just the same way, we’re seeing noticeably greater Septoria development in the eastern counties.

“Our regional network of monitoring plots will pick-up all these trends. By including a broad range of benchmark varieties with known sources of resistance we’ll also be monitoring changes in pathogen populations. In addition, virulence phenotyping by UKCPVS and genotyping at the Genome Analysis Centre will provide us with extra information on the genetic relationships between rust races.”

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