Don’t overlook take-all threat in winter barley this autumn

Growers are reminded that take-all disease remains a threat to winter barley crops this autumn and should consider a specific seed treatment to protect yield.

This soil-borne disease attacks the roots of cereal crops, restricting water and nutrient uptake and strangling yield – symptoms include blackened roots and whiteheads (bleached ears) that appear during grain fill.

The disease builds in soils when host crops are grown in consecutive seasons, so symptoms are most acute in second or third cereals before take-all decline sets in during year four. Certis' take-all expert, Tim Eaton, said that when growers think about take-all, they often associate the disease with wheat and overlook the risk it poses to winter barley crops.

“Winter barley is often grown in second and third cereal situations, so take-all is certainly something that should be considered, particularly on lighter soils,” he said, adding that field history should be a major consideration when assessing disease risk.

In wheat, later drilling is a major cultural method to reduce take-all, but potential to adjust drill date is much less in winter barley crops, the majority of which are drilled in September. “After so many winter barley growers were caught out last year by the wet autumn last year, there may be more crops drilled early this autumn and that may increase risk,” he added.

Other cultural methods as part of an integrated take-all control strategy include ensuring soil structure and drainage are in the best possible condition, and as take can thrive in fluffy soils, seed-bed consolidation will also help minimise its impact. Early spring nitrogen applications will help encourage rooting and reduce severity.

The next line of defence is seed treatment Latitude (silthiofam), which is often avoided in barley to control costs, but where risk is identified it can help protect yield. Yield response has been proven in ADAS-led trials conducted in Herefordshire during 2018, where an average yield response of 0.24t/ha was seen across all varieties and a 0.5t/ha uplift in six-row hybrid variety Volume.