Seed dressing key to loose smut control in barley – DAFWA

Fungicide seed dressing in 2015 will be critical in controlling the disease loose smut, which has become more prevalent in barley crops throughout the grain belt.

The Department of Agriculture and Food has the latest information on loose smut control available online, including results from 2014 trials.

Research officer Andrea Hills said the positive news was that the disease could be effectively controlled with registered fungicide seed treatments.

This meant that growers did not have to replace their barley seed, as previously recommended.

“Air-borne spores of barley loose smut infect the embryo of the forming seed so that when that infected seed is sown in the following year the tillers of the new plant produce heads that contain spores of loose smut instead of grain, reducing crop yields and continuing the disease cycle,” Ms Hills said.

“Loose smut is a very visual disease – five per cent head infection looks much higher at first glance.

“Seed dressings work by preventing the transmission of disease when the infected seed is grown in the following season so that the head can develop normally.

“Even when seed infection levels are high, the most effective seed treatments can reduce this to nearly zero.”

2013 field trials found all registered products which were tested reduced loose smut, although the effectiveness varied.

Some products could reduce the level of loose smut in crops to almost zero when they were applied to seed with a high rate of infection of 4.7 per cent.

“Correct seed application of treatments is vital in successfully controlling the disease,” Ms Hills said.

“Growers who apply seed treatments on farm should calibrate the auger and applicator that they are using, as under and over treating seed is money wasted in addition to poor disease control.”

A 2014 variety trial by the department and Grains Research and Development Corporation supported grower observations that the barley varieties Hindmarsh and La Trobe tended to be more susceptible to loose smut than others such as Bass, Commander, Flinders, Gairdner, Granger and Scope CL.

“Since Hindmarsh is such a popular variety in Western Australia, inoculum levels of loose smut are relatively high, so seed of all barley varieties needs to be protected against loose smut every year,” Ms Hills said.

Grain growers can access more information on loose smut control, including a fact sheet, at the DAFWA website agric.wa.gov.au/barley/controlling-barley-loose-smut-2015

Loose smut will also feature amongst a range of topics at a one-hour grain pest webinar at 8:30am 9 December. Contact Geoff Thomas to register your interest [email protected]

Source: DAFWA

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