Maize growers are being advised to check their crops for signs of eyespot as warm and wet weather across the country is creating the ideal conditions for this potentially devastating fungal disease.
A forage maize crop in Cheshire showing signs of eyespot in August 2011.
According to Andrew Cook of British Seed Houses, there are already widespread reports of eyespot in forage maize and, with prompt identification, late-sown crops could still be sprayed and there are also contingency plans to consider where fungicide action is no longer practical.
“We are receiving reports of eyespot across the south and south west of England, and also in the Midlands and up into Cheshire,” he says. “The disease tends to be more common in fields growing continuous maize, where disease has been able to build up, but we are seeing it in first year crops also this year.
“Eyespot can reduce dry matter yield in a forage maize crop by as much as 50%, possibly even more in severe cases. By being aware that a crop is affected, farmers may be able to spray or at least monitor the severity and take a decision to harvest early – to minimise the dry matter losses – whilst also thinking earlier about possible contingencies to replace a possible shortfall in forage stocks.
“In all cases we recommend that farmers take advice from a qualified agronomist in the field. It is a good idea to record when and where eyespot occurs, so that precautionary management can be applied in future. Ploughing deeply to bury trash is recommended, and – in fields growing maize after maize – sowing more than a single variety to spread the risk.”
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