It's a bit of a rarity in Scotland, but this season unusually high brown rust pressures have been affecting winter barley crops in Scotland.

That should raise alarm bells and growers should be factoring this into fungicide plans this season, according to Syngenta's area manager in Scotland, Iain Lindsay.

Brown rust can be found in several varieties, he said, with weather conditions and crop growth having fuelled the fungal disease. “Winter barley crops are much further forward than last season, and the thick crop canopies have created a microclimate that favours brown rust,” Mr Lindsay said.

“The weather wasn’t wet enough for high levels of the usual diseases of rhynchosporium and net blotch early in the season, but this hasn’t been a problem for brown rust. Now that brown rust is in crops, it will be important to be on guard against it for the rest of the season.

“For good control, you need good knockdown of the disease and persistent protection. Consider a fungicide that not only provides activity against rhynchosporium and net blotch, as these may still come into crops, but which is also noted for good brown rust control, such as Elatus Era.

“This has the convenience that it can be used in malting and feed crops of winter and spring barley and it can be used in winter and spring wheat.”

As well as being alert to brown rust in winter barley, there is also a risk to spring barley crops, said Mr Lindsay, depending on the weather. He estimated that about 5-10% of spring barley crops were planted early in Scotland this season, during the dry February, which will leave them more open to brown rust.

“It would be prudent to consider all potential disease risks when planning spring barley fungicide programmes this season,” he said. “Warmer conditions will help brown rust pressure during the summer.”