Disease pressure 'high' in UK grains crops

Grain crops escaped inundation damage from the UK's unusually wet winter, but the mild conditions which accompanied the heavy rains have encouraged "high" risks of disease.

Wheat crops in particular have "recovered well from the saturated soils over winter, with the majority of crops having good plant and tiller numbers", consultancy Adas said.

Although parts of the UK suffered the worst flooding in decades, it most affected the south west, a largely livestock producing area, rather than the eastern cereals belt, where lighter soils encourage swift drainage.

Drier conditions this month were "very welcome, allowing saturated fields to dry out, allowing access for pesticide and fertiliser applications and a start to cultivations and drilling of spring crops", Adas asid.

'Significant early disease pressure'

However, the relatively temperatures which accompanied the winter rains have caused a longer-lasting hangover, in encouraging excessive growth, and the potential for "lodging", when crops prove too heavy for their stalks, flopping over, reducing yield potential and becoming difficult to harvest.

"Lodging risk is high in many crops," Adas said.

 Disease pressure is "high "too, "with early development of yellow rust a particular concern", the consultancy said, referring to a common fungal disease.

In wheat, the "mild winter has resulted in development of yellow rust and brown rust especially in susceptible varieties".

"The mild and wet winter has resulted in significant early disease pressure."

In barley, "disease pressure is high with brown rust, rhynchosporium and net blotch active in many crops".

Spring barley plantings

However, at least a drier March has allowed farmers to apply fungicides, besides making far more rapid progress this year on spring barley sowings, which were slowed in 2013 by high soil moisture levels.

Some 30% of expected US spring barley plantings were completed by the end of March, twice the proportion (of a far larger area) seeded a year before, although remaining below levels in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, farmers had more than 80% of spring barley in the ground as of the end of March.

This year, "most of the drilling so far has been in the South East, Eastern region and Yorkshire where 75-80% of the planned area is drilled, while further west up to 50% is drilled," Adas said.

Little had been sown in northern England and Scotland.

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