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The continuing threat of take-all and what UK growers can do

The risk of take-all is always present, the weather plays a key part in the prominence of the disease so the level of threat will vary greatly from year to year as will the control methods growers can employ to minimise its impact on crops.

Following a mild and warm winter and the early spring we have experienced, conditions are ripe for the development and spread of take-all according to Geoffrey Bastard, Technical Specialist at Certis.

“Overall, it’s been a milder winter compared to last year, which favours the development of the pathogen within the soil and primary infection of wheat plants. As we move into spring and crops start to develop, the root mass grows and the infected roots will touch clean roots, spreading the pathogen from plant to plant.”

Secondary wheat infection is at its highest risk this time of year, and especially high this season considering the early spring.

“The West of the country should be on the lookout for signs of take-all due to the recent wet and mild weather. On the other hand, the East has experienced a dry spring which has helped hinder the spread of the disease, but recent heavy rains mean growers should vigilant.”

There have already been reports of take-all from all over the country according to Dr. Jane Thomas, Head of the Pathology Group at NIAB. She has been working with Certis on their Latitude Network trials, which are farm-scale experiments at seven different test sites around the UK, aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of the Latitude (silthiofam) seed treatment on a commercial scale.

“We’ve been assessing plant samples from test fields where Certis has been looking at the effects of Latitude. We can safely say that we’ve detected take-all in all of the sites, with some areas being worse affected than others. If anything, I would say levels will continue to increase or become more pronounced as time goes on”.

The findings have also been confirmed by NIAB’s plant clinic, where they assess commercial plant samples and testing has revealed evidence of take-all in both wheat and barley crops. Dr. Thomas continues: “Conditions were quite favourable for infection and continue to be favourable for development. Now we are seeing some stunting and yellowing, but if we get very dry conditions, take-all will start to show up quite severely in the field and typical whiteheads with poor grain fill may start to appear.”

The Latitude Network trials will continue to monitor the development of the disease and the effects of seed treatment, with test sites spread throughout Essex, Lincolnshire, Kent, Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Norfolk and Northumberland. Explaining the reason behind undertaking large-scale, regionalised testing, Geoffrey said: “Our Latitude Network trials were set up to pin down the difference between treated and untreated crops as a field-scale experiment. We wanted to refresh a decade-worth of data with new information that shows regional differences and tells growers how Latitude performs on their doorstep.”

Preliminary results have been positive, demonstrating the efficacy of Latitude seed treatment in reducing the risk of take-all, which is great news for second wheat growers according to Geoffrey: “Where growers are hesitant to put in oilseed rape because of the pressures it is facing, second wheat is a very profitable crop if you get it right. The key point to achieving that is to use Latitude, especially where you’ve seen take-all in the past or where you know it’s going to be high risk.”

Take-all management tips for 2019

  • Assess take-all levels in second wheat crops to identify next season’s risk if a third successive wheat is planned
  • Reduce the impact of take-all with an integrated management plan, such as drilling second and third wheats last to avoid the main infection period.
  • Good establishment and nutrient levels are key, twinned with good soil structure and drainage
  • A seed treatment such as Latitude can help protect yield in second and third cereal crops