Monitoring late rusts

LATE season rusts, in particular stem rust in the Yitpi variety are forcing farmers to put out late season fungicides, in spite of a generally low burden of fungal disease.

And while there are issues in high rainfall zones, traditionally home to late-season diseases, there are also issues in other areas that do not usually need to bother about spraying so late in the year, with the problems more attributed to varietal issues rather than climate zone.

Professor Colin Wellings of the University of Sydney has urged growers in all areas to monitor crops closely for signs of rust.

Wet over the east coast during last summer provided perfect conditions for the disease, however good management practice had meant there wasn’t a lot of disease earlier in the growing season.

“With the wet season over 2010-11 there was every opportunity for rust to survive over that period and yet surprisingly the stripe rust epidemic began relatively late this year,” Prof Wellings said.

He said the late onset was largely due to growers taking a proactive approach including early management options such as fungicides on fertiliser and seed and in-furrow.

However, susceptible varieties are being infected with fungal disease.

In particular, low rainfall zone farmers in south-eastern Australia are keeping a close eye on the Yitpi variety.

A favourite for years, with relatively good stripe rust resistance, Yitpi is very susceptible to stem rust.

There were some outbreaks in the variety last year, and more this year.

A farmer in Victoria’s far north-west has been carefully monitoring and treating Yitpi crops.

“We’ve put out a couple of sprays, we’ve noticed a few issues with stem rust, and you just don’t want to take any risk as it can do a lot of damage,” said Matt Curtis, Merbein South.

“It’s not like stripe rust that really just takes off a few percent, it can really take off quite a bit of yield, and we just don’t want to risk it, especially with the crop reasonably advanced.”

Meanwhile, Prof Wellings said WA was enjoying a reasonable year on the fungal disease front, in spite of a wet spring in many parts, saying the situation was well under control.

“The disease had not survived to a large extent over the summer period, which was very dry,” he said.

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