For the final time this season we’ve asked three agronomists/advisors about the issues of the season and what they would have done in hindsight, with insights from Monica Field (WA), Mick Faulkner (SA) and Fred Broughton (NSW).
Prefer to listen to the interviews instead? Click here for the Seasonal Update in the Crop Disease Podcast, where our three industry members go into more detail about the season.
Monica Field, Farm and General, Esperance, WA
Monica Field said in general it was looking like an average season, with a fair bit of variability across the region.
“It’s been a very interesting and different season this year. June for us, has probably saved the Mallee and also probably ruined some of the more high rainfall zones as part of the Esperance region, because that’s where the bulk of the rain has fallen.
“So it’s been a challenging year in that we had no summer rain, then very poor early rain, then a good June and then not a lot of rain after that. So we’re thankful for that June rain, because I think we really would have been in trouble without it.”
Monica said for next year they will plan on increasing diversity in varieties, particularly in wheat in higher rainfall zones, to help with powdery mildew management. Also, with improved resistance in barley varieties, growers may be able to slightly reduce their fungicide regimes.
For canola, Monica said they probably should have managed sclerotinia and upper canopy blackleg a little better in hindsight, where in some areas there have been quite high levels of infection.
“For next year I think we’ll also see a little bit of a change in the rotations. We’ve had a big reduction in barley in the last couple of years and I think we’ll see that come in a little bit more and that might be helpful in the sense that we won’t have as much pressure on canola or wheat in the rotation,” she said.
Mick Faulkner, Agrilink Agricultural Consultants, Penwortham, SA
Mick Faulkner said as the season comes to an end, growers are probably two to three weeks earlier than normal in their schedules. He said disease has been a minor issue this season.
“I think we have to say for disease we’ve had one of the best fungicides available,” Mick said.
“We don’t like it very much, but that fungicide is dry weather and that’s what we’ve had in the spring. We’ve had such dry weather that most fungal diseases have been suppressed by those conditions. Now that’s a general comment of course, for some areas some spraying has been required.”
Mick said next season will be very much dependent on what happens over summer, and if there is no green bridge over summer, then that reduces the risk of carryover on green material, especially of stripe rust.
“So we may see a slight reduction in the use of flutrifol on fertiliser, which this is probably the highest use of that tactic that we’ve seen for a number of years given the summer carryover that we had this year, so I think we would probably see that reduce a little on cereals,” he said.
“The amount of loose smut around on barley is probably a bit of a concern, so there’ll be some emphasis on correct application of seed dressings.
“And I think most people would say that they need at least one or two applications of a fungicide during the growing season, and in other areas, maybe even three. And knowing that the supply lines are still tight, they will have to make a decision about how much of that they have in their own inventory on farm as against being able to just go into their local merchandise store and buy it.”
Fred Broughton, Rural Management Strategies, Cootamundra, NSW
Fred Broughton said most growers in his region will be pretty happy with an average result to the season. He said disease had been a minor issue with growers controlling any diseases that did eventuate quickly and effectively, and the aphid problem that was mentioned in the previous seasonal update not getting any worse.
“However there were a few aphids about, and the main damage caused by the aphids were spreading barley yellow dwarf virus, particularly in wheat crops. That was probably the most impact aphids had this year, yet that has been minor but on quite a wide scale,” he said.
Fred said growers went quite hard on fungicide use quite early in the season, and with the way the season panned out, he thought that may not have been necessary.
“However, I think a lot of growers were trying to avoid the situation last year where disease got out of hand and they actually lost control of the disease, so I think in hindsight we might have been able to go a little bit easier on that,” he said.
“But being in the same situation again, I think I’d still be quite robust on those decisions just to keep the crops as clean as possible and try and minimise any damage or inoculant buildup going into that critical period of stem elongation, so I really don’t think we would have done a lot differently.”
And the final word from CCDM
CCDM Director Mark Gibberd said the good news with less disease this season, is that there’s less inoculum left on the stubble, which will set growers up for next year.
“And that’s a carryover effect – it’s an effect that we’ve never really quantified in terms of value, but it’s got to be large because it reduces the early season disease pressure that we’ll see in the 2024 season and that’s going to have a big impact,” he said.
“So hopefully next year, with good rainfall, low disease pressure at the start of the year, we’ll see some outcomes from the low disease pressure we’ve seen at the end of this year.”
Mark said when you’ve had a year like this one and you’re wanting to maximise your returns for next year, growers will be looking to select the most resistant varieties of the crop type to keep the disease pressure as low as possible.
“We know we’re coming in with low inoculum, we know we’re starting to see a few new varieties appear, but don’t forget that those varieties need to be supported,” he said.
“Just because a variety has a pretty good disease rating doesn’t mean that it’s immune to disease, we still need to make sure that the right fungicides are used at the right time to keep that disease pressure as low as possible.
“By doing this we’re limiting the chance to develop more mutations that lead to the sort of selection process that we see for fungicide resistance.”
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