Disease break critical to manage fusarium

Getting rotations right to manage fusarium

Cropping News
Steven Simpfendorfer, NSW DPI, says good rotations are critical to minimising the risk of fusarium head blight. Photo: GRDC.

Steven Simpfendorfer, NSW DPI, says good rotations are critical to minimising the risk of fusarium head blight. Photo: GRDC.

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A sound rotation is the key to minimising the threat of the deadly fungal disease fusarium.

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When it comes to the deadly fungal disease fusarium head blight (FHB) researchers have found prevention is better than cure.

An extended Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project has found that preventative agronomic practices are the best way to minimise the risk of the disease.

And it is a problem that farmers would do well to avoid if at all possible.

Those with long memories will remember the outbreak on the Liverpool Plains in NSW around 20 years ago that saw the area's durum crop virtually wiped out by the blight, which in turn prompted the GRDC research into FHB.

Managing FHB is particularly difficult in summer cropping environments because maize is a host for the disease pathogen.

Maize is becoming increasingly popular as an irrigated summer crop, particularly in the southern NSW irrigation districts.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) senior plant pathologist Steven Simpfendorfer said the best plan for growers was to avoid maize and durum in the same rotation.

He said planting a non-grass species in the rotation as a disease break was a good option to minimise FHB risk, while testing potentially at-risk paddocks can also save growers big dollars.

Durum on durum rotations, not regular agronomic practice, are also discouraged from an FHB management perspective.

Fusarium is a devastating disease especially in durum wheat. Photo: GRDC.

Fusarium is a devastating disease especially in durum wheat. Photo: GRDC.

FHB is unlikely to be a major threat in the northern cropping zone this season, as it requires wet and humid conditions at grain flowering and grain fill stages of crop development, but with a wet early winter in the south authorities are warning against complacency.

"When conditions are warm and humid, the spores will germinate and infect the plant through the flowers (anthers) which can lead to serious grain yield losses and grain quality downgrading," Dr Simpfendorfer said.

He said while there were fungicide options available they should be considered a last resort, as there is only one chemical registered for use on FHB.

If a fungicide is to be used, Dr Simpfendorfer advocated a timely application at flowering.

"Research has shown that spraying durum wheat at flowering, growth stage 61, was more effective and had more yield benefit than spraying seven days before flowering," Dr Simpfendorfer said.

The story Disease break critical to manage fusarium first appeared on Farm Online.

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