Are risk-based sclerotinia sprays good for the bottom line?
Information on oilseed rape growth stage, sclerotinia pressure and weather-based infection risk, can help reduce sprays and improve spray timing, according to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) research.
With the crop about to enter its critical flowering period, AHDB has announced it will run its sclerotinia infection risk alerts service again this season to help growers better target sprays.
AHDB has also issued the spring update of the light leaf spot forecast; as well as predictive information on aphid activity (first flights and abundance).
Each spring, warm (>10°) moist soils cause sclerotinia sclerotiorum to develop brown spore-releasing structures on the soil. Carried in the wind, the spores can land on oilseed rape, feed on petals and germinate.
Even where spores are present and food is sufficient, conducive weather is required for infection to occur.
The ADAS-led project provided infection-risk information for 15 commercial sites, three times each week (2015–2018), during the main risk periods.
Located across England and Scotland, some sites included monitoring of airborne spores and petal inoculum levels.
The researchers found that decisions based on inoculum levels and weather-based infection risk resulted in 26% fewer crops needing treatment.
- Under relatively high disease pressures, fungicides which were applied in response to alerts resulted in an average yield response of 0.3 t/ha (compared with the untreated control);
- Where sprays were made routinely at early flower (in the absence of alerts), average yield increases were reduced to 0.22 t/ha.
“In the absence of sclerotinia inoculum, oilseed rape is not at risk from infection. Where inoculum is found, weather largely drives infection risk and this is where our alerts service is particularly useful,” said Catherine Harries, disease research manager at AHDB.
The UK areas where weather conditions are currently, or are forecast to be, suitable for the sclerotinia pathogen to infect crops are highlighted by the risk alerts service.
Typically, the optimum time for a single spray is just before mid-flowering on the main raceme and, since fungicides have protectant activity, should be applied prior to an infection risk alert.
Persistence of full-dose fungicides is approximately three weeks. If a spray is made earlier, or if the flowering period is extended, a second spray may be required under conducive infection conditions.
Access the sclerotinia infection risk alerts during the main flowering period online.
Light leaf spot and aphid forecasts
AHDB’s light leaf spot spring forecast shows that the disease risk to oilseed rape has increased over most regions, since the autumn preliminary forecast.
This is due to the wetter than average winter for most parts of the UK; with the exception being eastern Scotland, which has reduced slightly due to drier weather than normal.
With air temperatures above the 30-year average in both January and February, aphids are anticipated to take flight relatively early this spring.
In fact, the AHDB aphid news service predicts that aphids will fly about two or three weeks earlier in Scotland and Northern England – about four weeks earlier over much of the rest of England.