In this Spotlight story we’ve asked four agronomists/advisors about the current issues of the season and the next management strategy to think about, with insights from Tessa Dimond (QLD), Fred Broughton (NSW), Mick Faulkner (SA) and Monica Field (WA).
Tessa Dimond, AGnVET Rural, St George, Queensland
Tessa Dimond said because it had been a dry start to the season this year, there hadn’t been too many reports of crop disease. But after having two or three good years in a row, there’s a need to stay vigilant and make sure growers are using preventative strategies.
“Last season was a high pressure year. We actually had powdery mildew in our area, which I have not seen in the last seven years, and I don’t think it’s been around for the last ten years,” Tessa said.
“That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant, we need to make sure that we’re getting back into a good cropping rotation where we’re including legumes like faba beans and chickpeas, so that we can reduce that inoculum.
“And also looking at keeping on top of weed management during your fallow. Also selection of varieties, whether it be wheat or chickpeas, are all good points to be moving forward on this year.”
Fred Broughton, Rural Management Strategies, Cootamundra, NSW
Fred Broughton said at this stage, they’ve only seen sporadic reports of septoria in cereals and some minor black leg in canola, however, if the weather conditions continue as they have in the last few weeks, there will definitely be some spraying in the near future.
“At this stage, growers are a little bit concerned about the forecast for the latter part of the year and people are trying to manage the economics,” Fred said.
“Commodity prices are reducing, imports are still relatively expensive, so managing cash flow and managing their expenditure compared to the last couple of seasons, that’s been quite a big talking point.
“Currently, weather conditions are very conducive to disease development and as such, growers are thinking about disease management in the next few weeks. However, with the dry forecast predicted, that may indicate that some of this disease or fungicide use and disease pressure may not materialise and as a result, may not require the level of control that people are predicting at the moment.
“So many of our growers will play it by ear and see what the next month six weeks holds weather wise and treat diseases as they appear.”
Mick Faulkner, Agrilink Agricultural Consultants, Penwortham, SA.
Mick Faulkner said everyone is a bit nervous about disease because last year they had major issues with stripe rust and septoria tritici blotch in wheat as well as a green bridge over summer.
“So we know that we’re waiting patiently. We don’t want to go and waste fungicides by applying them too early and we need to have the critical growth stages to protect and not waste them, but we fully anticipate, almost irrespective of the season, that we will have stripe rust, “ Mick said.
Mick said nitrogen levels are quite low in the region, especially in intensive rotations after wheat, barley and canola crops, but there’s been fantastic early growth because of the warmer conditions they’ve experienced.
“So we have that bit of a conflict of knowing that we need some nitrogen along the way, but at the moment having very good growth due to early rainfall and very warm conditions over the previous two months,” he said.
“So it’s a bit more of a juggling act this year to make sure we get the canopy and the maturity and the nitrogen fertility right, and also to make sure that we’ve got money in the budget if we need it for fungicides.”
Monica Field, Farm and General, Esperance, WA
Monica Field said with 150mm of rain falling last week, everyone is quite optimistic despite the trickier start.
“There’s been some very good crops and some very good potential still in the zone, I think,” Monica said.
“We’re just starting to see a little bit of net type net blotch in the early barley crops. There’s definitely been downy mildew in some of the canola varieties earlier and we’re seeing a little bit of black leg with tight rotations in canola, and haven’t seen a huge amount of wheat diseases yet as of present.
Monica said there’s been a shift in hectares in the region, with barley hectares dropping dramatically back in the last two years.
“So we’ve probably put a lot more pressure in the system, with a lot more hectares with a tight canola-wheat-canola rotation,” she said.
And the final word from CCDM Director Mark Gibberd
CCDM’s Mark Gibberd said one of the issues of a high disease year like last year is that you end up building a lot of inoculum into the system on the stubble and leftover material.
“So if the conditions are conducive this year, then there’s a high chance that we’ll see high levels of early infection once again,” Mark said.
“It’s fantastic to see that people are deploying best practise as early as they possibly can, with high use of in-furrow fungicides and the importance of selecting the most resistant possible genetics in these circumstances.
“Now, of course, for this year, everything’s in the ground. But if you’ve got varieties out there that have a low resistance rating and you expect high disease pressure, you really need to be on the lookout now and really think about when you’re going to get the next lot of fungicides on.
“Certainly the inoculum is going to be there. It’s just going to be a matter of time before you see those disease symptoms ramp up in the absence of a really good fungicide control strategy.”
Mark said it was fantastic to see the season was off to a good start, with establishment delayed in some areas, but overall looking pretty good.
“We’re hearing about water logging in some areas in the south and some dry areas in the north, of course, and that’s just farming, but people are managing what they’ve got really well and I’m hearing a lot of positivity from the farmers that I’m talking to,” he said.
Liked this blog? Why not listen to the full interviews on the Crop Disease Podcast.