Monday, April 22, 2019

Manage threats to winter barley above and below ground

September 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Winter barley growers should take action now to prevent take-all from inhibiting root growth and suppressing yields later, say experts.

Barley plants are being pushed to produce a large number of grains per ear, which puts additional stress on the crop, says Geoffrey Bastard, regional technical specialist for Certis. This makes it important to look after the crop throughout the season, he adds.

Diseases that affect crop roots inhibit the uptake of nutrient and moisture, explains Mr Bastard. Growers should seek to manage plant health both above and below ground for the crop to realise its full potential, he says.

Frontier Agriculture agronomist Emma Adams says take-all requires attention to detail ahead of drilling. “It’s all about creating the best environment possible for the crop to thrive, and cope better with disease pressure,” she says.

Planting the crop into a consolidated seed bed with the right moisture content is the first step to developing robust rooting. “It’s important to know what your soil indices are. Regular soil testing can help to establish if soil is deficient in nutrients, as well as indicating lock up.”

Crop nutrition

Recent studies have shown that manganese, potassium and sodium deficiencies can exacerbate take-all, says Ms Adams. “Make sure you have the right balance in your soil along with good drainage and structure,” she advises.

Nutrition is critical in the autumn to encourage crop establishment – especially this year when so much straw has been removed. “Fresh applications of water soluble P and K very close to, or at, drilling will help encourage early rooting.”

Delaying drilling until mid-October can also help with take-all management, as the pathogen activity declines when soil temperature drops. “The use of a seed treatment, such as Latitude, also helps to protect the crop from the disease during the early vulnerable stages of growth.”

By the spring, focus should shift to ensuring the crop has the appropriate level of nutrition to fulfil its yield potential. “I’d advise applying the first dressing of nitrogen in February or March, dependant on weather conditions, and the main dressing in April.”

It may also be worth making smaller and more frequent nutrient applications to reduce nitrogen wastage and leeching. This will help to mitigate the impact of take-all by providing nutrition frequently enough so that the damaged roots don’t have to search for it.”

Above ground

The biggest threat to barley yields ‘above ground’ is barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV), which can result in yield penalties of up to 80% – particularly if infection occurs early at BBCH 10-12, says Ms Adams.

“Seed treatments in the form of Deter, in combination with cultural controls, are key when it comes to minimising the risk of infection,” she says. “It’s key to control the aphid’s green bridge habitat at least three weeks before drilling, whether this is through ploughing or chemical controls.”

If possible, crops should be planted later when the temperature is lower and aphid activity is reduced to help to reduce crop damage. “It’s also worth investing in a BYDV-tolerant variety such as KWS Amistar, which can still be infected by the disease, but won’t express symptoms.”

Once crops are planted, monitoring for aphids should be a priority.  “Temperature governs aphid reproduction, speed and growth. It takes several weeks for the first generation of wingless aphids to mature and start to reproduce.”

Ongoing risk

The spread of BYDV accelerates rapidly when the second generation of aphids start to reproduce. “It’s critical to monitor crops closely and be prepared to apply foliar insecticides even where a seed treatment has been used.”

Crops should be considered at risk up until BBCH 31. When spring arrives, an appropriate fungicide strategy alongside the application of a growth regulator can help to achieve the yield potential of the crop.

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