Bayer quiz highlights disease identification challenge

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Up to a third of growers might not be able to identify the seed-borne disease loose smut, according to the results from a quiz by Bayer.

“Loose smut, which is difficult to spot in its early stages,” said the company, “takes hold of cereal crops when spores from infected plants land on healthy plants, infecting the developing grain of wheat, barley and oats.

“Identification of such diseases, however, might be becoming more important after both loose smut and leaf stripe were found in some barley crops last season.”

The results of Bayer’s quiz, based on responses by 300 participants, highlight the difficulty many growers have in identifying seed and soil-borne diseases of cereal crops, which for many years have only rarely been seen thanks to very effective seed treatments.

Four out of five quiz-takers (84%) knew that bunt smelled of rotting fish, but a third (35%) were unable to spot the physical signs of the disease. Bunt, which only affects wheat, replaces the grain in infected ears with balls of spores.

Only half (51%) correctly identified seedling net blotch – in fact a quarter of the growers mistook net blotch for leaf stripe, which looks very similar in infected young seedlings.

But almost half (45%) of those surveyed were able to identify covered smut, even though it is relatively rare in the UK. Loose and covered smut are similar, but covered smut produces spores that remain in the ear under a thin membrane.

“It’s not surprising that today’s growers find some of these diseases difficult to identify because of the success of single purpose fungicidal seed treatments,” said Claire Matthewman, Campaign Manager at Bayer.

“With growers now turning their attention to drilling, it is vital that good practice is maintained even when time is short and workloads high, particularly in light of the recent EU Member States’ decision to restrict neonicotinoid seed treatments after this autumn to use in permanent greenhouses only. By maintaining good practice, such as calibrating the drill correctly and ensuring that no seed is left on the surface, growers can help safeguard these crucial crop protection tools for use now and in the future.”

Headline image shows loose smut

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