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As growers look ahead to spring 2021, the picture is a lot better than many feared. In general, winter cereal crops were drilled in good time, and although it was wet in early October, most crops have got up and away and looking much better than they did in January 2020. 

With most growers facing a more normal start to the year, the focus is on managing disease and keeping crops as clean as possible through to harvest. Only East Anglia bucks the trend, where extremely wet weather in autumn delayed or halted drilling activities, and growers will be playing catch up to get crops established this spring. 

Rosalind Martin, Bayer’s Combinable Fungicide Campaign Manager, highlights the diseases to watch out for this season, and discusses new technology from Bayer that will help growers identify early-stage disease, justify fungicide spend, and support profitable cereal crop production.


Early drilling disease risk

The autumn drilling campaign came on the back of one of the worst seasons in many years, and some growers were not willing to risk delaying drilling and suffer another autumn wash-out like 2019. As a result, many crops were drilled a bit earlier than normal.

This earlier drilling will likely result in heightened disease incidence, so growers need to be aware of the risks, and prepare to react quickly to protect yield.

The earlier you drill, the higher the Septoria pressure you can expect. The same applies to eyespot, when earlier drilling dates and wet, cold weather drives disease infection over the early winter. Yellow rust on the other hand is not as tolerant of cold weather, so the few hard frosts we’ve already had this winter may mean lower yellow rust incidence. However, yellow rust races seem to be becoming more resilient to a wider range of climatic conditions, so although the disease generally prefers cool and damp weather in the spring, we are increasingly seeing the disease continue to cycle in hotter, drier weather.


Identifying disease

Septoria is a particularly difficult disease to control effectively. In its early stages, the disease is not visible, and it can remain in this ‘latent’ stage for up to 28 days. This means that you won’t know the level of pressure in the crop until you can see lesions on the leaves, making decisions on fungicide strategy that much more challenging.

Fungicides are most effective against Septoria in the early, latent stages of the disease cycle, and different products and rates are appropriate depending on how far you are through this infection cycle.

So, unless you know whether the upper leaves are infected, it can be difficult to decide whether you can rely on protectant fungicides, or whether you need to include more expensive, curative products.

Knowing if you have Septoria infection is therefore key to selecting the most appropriate fungicide, rate, and timings. And this is why Bayer has been developing rapid disease detection technology to help growers understand the disease incidence in their crops, and justify their fungicide decisions.

In a similar way to Bayer’s oilseed rape SpotCheck service, which helps growers justify fungicide sprays in the autumn and early spring by identifying early signs of Light Leaf Spot on leaf samples, this latest technology will identify whether disease is present within the cereal plant’s leaf tissue, even if it is not visible. The technology, which is being trialled by Bayer growers in 2021, provides results within just a few days and will also determine the amount of disease DNA present in the leaf, providing information on the potential severity of disease.

Although this technology is still in development, the early results have been promising and growers can look forward to new disease detecting tools in the near future.

Find out more about Rapid Disease Detection 


Robust fungicide programme

Given the relative normality of the season so far it is difficult to say what growers could expect disease-wise this spring. In part because despite improvements in weather forecasting, we can still only see two weeks ahead with any certainty, and also because we just don’t know what level of disease is lurking unseen in crops this winter.

It’s because of this variability in crop and disease conditions, and unpredictability in the weather, that growers should ensure they have a robust fungicide programme in place, and can react quickly if weather conditions or disease pressure changes.

Growers will want to consider a programme that covers all bases, including control of the key diseases and flexibility in application rates and timing.

With the T2 spray at GS 37-39 crucial for yield protection, timing is important but often impossible to get right. It’s a busy time of year and with unpredictable weather, finding spray windows that match crop growth stage can be a real struggle. Choosing a reliable fungicide that gives you confidence regardless of timing and weather can give you some peace of mind.

This is where Ascra really excels. It offers excellent protectant and some curative activity against the key diseases, particularly Septoria and rusts, as well as eye spot, Fusarium and mildew. Ascra also enables some flexibility in dose and timings at T1 and T2, to allow you to adapt to the circumstances in the crop.


New technology

With a new year comes new technology, and Bayer is developing a new fungicide that delivers class leading all-round disease control. Iblon technology is going through the approval process and will be in small field trials this spring.

Based on the active ingredient, isoflucypram, a new class of SDHI chemistry, Iblon technology will provide a step up in disease control, with excellent activity against Septoria, rusts and other key diseases. In trials it is already outperforming all current products, so growers can hopefully look forward to a new fungicide in the future.

When it comes to evaluating trials and overall crop performance, there’s one more piece of technology that is exciting growers this season. Climate FieldView is being trialled by growers across the UK, eager to benefit from the insights derived from historic data and that captured throughout the season.

Read about the experience of Lincolnshire grower Alex Borthwick when he trialled Climate FieldView in 2020.


Bayer team on hand

Whatever the weather throws at us this year, there is plenty to be positive about. Most crops are looking well and growers have some good fungicides at their disposal, like Ascra, to support their crops through to harvest.

Bayer’s technical managers will continue to share the latest technical advice, including resistance updates, and they’ll be regularly checking our demonstration sites across the UK where we can understand more about disease levels and crop progress. There is always someone local to you who’s willing to pick up the phone and speak with you, even if visiting in person is a little more challenging this year.

Find your local technical manager here. 

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