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Rocket Science and Sclerotinia

Date Added: 15/04/2016

Blog: By Richard Elsdon, Technical Consultant, United Oilseeds

 “Figuring out what we need to do is not the challenge. The challenge is figuring out when to do it.” 

The quotation is from Peter Turla, an American, who is currently President of the National Management Institute. He was formerly a NASA rocket designer and was a key member of the NASA Apollo rocket design team. He helped design the propulsion system of the Saturn 5 rocket. Whilst there, he also developed and applied innovative time-management techniques to solve problems that dealt with with fast-changing priorities, frequent interruptions, stress, and tight deadlines.

 “Brilliant!” I hear you say, “But what has that got to do with day-to-day farm management?”  I am not suggesting that it is the answer to all of your prayers, but it may be useful when making crop protection decisions this spring.

 We are just about at the stage when Sclerotinia prevention fungicides will need to be applied. I do understand that the economics of arable are challenging, but two things need to be borne in mind. First, unlike almost all of the other foliar diseases of oilseed rape, Sclerotinia infection can only be prevented not cured. Second, the pay-back from some fungicides will come not only from disease prevention but also from the greening effect they have on the crop.  This in itself has been shown to produce a positive yield response of up to a quarter of a tonne per hectare.  At current harvest values this is worth circa £66 per Ha.

ADAS have done similar work and have achieved a yield increase of 0.23 tonne per hectare, so the effect is repeatable.  As far as I am aware, not all fungicide manufacturers are making this claim so this is certainly a topic to discuss with your agronomist.

 Now we come to the other issues surrounding this fungicide application. I suggest they are: timing, rate of use and effect on Light Leaf Spot (LLS).

 The point that needs to be borne in mind about timing is that we do not know when the spores of Sclerotinia are going to be released, or if on release the spores will develop on the oilseed rape petals. For this reason, I favour a split dose applied about two weeks apart. Yes it means more work for the sprayer, but it does protect the crop for up to a month.

 Rates of use follow on from the decision about splitting the dose or not. Please remember that any application can only protect the petals present at the time.  Petals produced just after application are not protected.

 LLS seems to have been a recurring theme this year and it still needs to be considered. When you are inspecting your crops pre spraying, look carefully to see if this most pernicious of diseases is still present.  If it is, then the choice of fungicide may have been made for you. Another discussion with your agronomist!

 The oilseed rape crops are now moving through their growth stages and some of the most forward are just about at the protectant fungicide stage.  I am not going to suggest that you manage your time, but that you may want to adjust your activity during the days ahead to “figure out when to do it!”  And of course, by "it," I am referring to taking the most cost-effective decision as to when to make the last fungicide application to your oilseed rape crop this season.

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