THE YEAR may be on the dry side for many but a plant pathologist has said farmers still cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball in regards to plant disease in cereal crops.
Speaking at Birchip Cropping Group's main field day in Victoria earlier in the month Agriculture Victoria senior plant pathologist Grant Hollaway said diseases like yellow leaf spot in wheat could still create yield loss in crops with reasonable yield potential this year.
"In particular you look at varieties with poor resistance to the disease such as Yitpi and you are looking at 15-20 per cent yield loss in high yielding environments so you need to be aware of this when making your planting decisions."
Dr Hollaway said moving forward farmers could minimise their risk by choosing varieties with good disease resistance and doing paddock testing to look at disease inoculum levels prior to planting.
He said testing could identify warning signs for a number of diseases.
"A Predicta B test where you can look at inoculum levels for a number of diseases can help with paddock selection," Dr Hollaway said.
He said farmers should look to plant resistant varieties where possible and if they were looking at planting a more susceptible line make sure it was planted in a paddock with a low disease load.
In terms of emerging disease problems, Dr Hollaway said Septoria tritici blight, traditionally only a problem in high rainfall zones, was steadily making its way north and was showing worrying signs of fungicide resistance.
"It is what happens when you see 15-20 years where a disease is being treated with basically the same mode of action."
"The disease has a very long presentation period so our advice is to get down low in the canopy to check for it, it may be something some areas that haven't had to manage will now have to look at."
The oat disease red leather leaf is also something researchers are monitoring, especially given the resurgence in oat plantings in recent years.
Dr Hollaway said there had also been reports of unidentified yellowing of wheat plants.
He said at this stage it was thought it was just a physiological reaction to the season and the cold start to spring.
"It has been cold with showers and frost in recent weeks and some leaves have yellowed as a result, obviously there would be no response to a fungicide application on plants with these symptoms."