Plant pathologists from Scotlands Rural Collegebelieve that the recent heavy rain could greatly increase the risk of fungaldisease in next years spring barley. Also referred to as head or ear blightthe condition can result in lower rates of seed germination and reduced yields.They are asking farmers across Scotland to send in sample ears for testing andto be wary of planting saved seeds for next years crop.
All of our trial sites have reported high levelsof fusarium on the ears this year, Dr Neil Havis, SRUC plant pathologist,explains. We have been observing the crop developing in our sites in Fife,East Lothian and Lanark and have seen many areas affected by the fungus. Lasttime we had such a wet summer back in 2012 we ran an ear blight survey andfound nearly half the seeds infected with different strains of fungus.
The 2012/13 ear blight survey found that in theEdinburgh and Lothians region, where it rained heavily through June and July,48% of the spring barley seeds were harbouring at least one fungus. While otherareas had lower concentrations (41% in the north east) it was clear that thesepathogens had taken hold throughout Scotland.
The condition is often more of a threat when thereis heavy rain late in the season, especially if it rains when the barley isflowering. July is when most barley in Scotland is likely to bloom which isworrying as met office figures have shown this July to be one of the wettest inrecent years. In Scotland as a whole there was 152.4mm of rain in July, thiscompares with 86.5mm in 2014 and 81.9mm in 2013. Even in 2012, when we saw sucha high concentration of fungal disease there was just 126.1mm of rainfall inJuly. This year regional statistics show that Aberdeenshire, Fife andPerthshire were both twice as wet in July as in an average year and this wasreflected at the SRUC trial sites.
As there is a high fungal diseaserisk this year we are asking all cereal farmers to send in samples of theirseeds so we can test them to work out how high the infection rate is thisseason. Dr Neil Havis says. I would strongly advise all farmers to get theirseeds treated before they sow them. Seed treatments will protect the seedlingas it establishes and also reduce inoculum levels in the soil and at the baseof the crop.
Fusarium is a fungal disease that affect cerealcrops. It generally lives in the soil and is often known as a damping offdisease as the infection can smother and kill off young plants. However, whenit rains the fungal spores can be moved up the plant as the water splashes offthe soil, in this way more mature plants become infected with head blight.Symptoms include a whitening of the grains and a bleaching of the ear.Sometimes the grains become darkened and if spores are being produced the earscan have a pinkish tinge. High fusarium levels also affect animal production asnearly 50% of the spring barely grown in Scotland is used to feed livestock.
Farmers who are able to send a seed sample to SRUCare asked to email [email protected] to find out more. Moreinformation on the fungal disease risk this year can also be obtained from DrNeil Havis through email or on 0131 535 4136.