Complete: Maximising sugar yield via fungicides

Timescale: 2012 - 2016
Project Lead: Dr Eric Ober
Project Sponsor: Rothamsted and BBRO

Project Summary

Previous fungicide trials have shown that the application of a single fungicide can give yield benefits of up to 8 adjusted t/ha and, from a two-spray strategy, a potential further 10 adjusted t/ha. The fungicide trials have enabled the industry to optimise disease control, green-leaf cover and, ultimately, yield depending on harvest date. Current BBRO advice recommends a two spray approach. Positive benefits of a three-spray approach were demonstrated in 2011, although this was not evident in 2012. These studies continue to fine-tune advice regarding application timing and lifting date and provide a more robust advisory system for communicating when to apply products to maximise profitability of the crop, linked to the InnovateUK : SPOREID project.

Main Objectives

A significant proportion of yield is determined late in the growing season, and maintenance of a green, healthy canopy is essential. A robust fungicide programme is an essential element of crop management to achieve maximum yields. However, in work to determine the best fungicide programmes, there is not quantitative information on the effect on the canopy itself, nor is there information on how these programmes interact with different harvest dates. Furthermore, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that canopy size can help buffer plants against frost damage, but there are no quantitative data from replicated trials to support this notion. Understanding the value of canopy size is also important to minimise frost damage in the field, which has been a problem in recent winters. The proposed work will add value to trials already established to examine fungicide programmes, and will supply much needed quantitative information on the interactions between harvest date, fungicides, canopy size and potential frost damage. 

Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry

Fungicides remain key to protecting the crop from foliar diseases whilst maintaining canopy cover for autumn growth, early frost protection and maximising overall yield potential. The trials in 2015 and 2016 continue to show good rust control, the most abundant disease during these two years, although yield responses were more variable in 2016 and not all treatments provided significant yield increases as seen in previous years possibly reflecting the very variable weather and the impact this had on overall disease build-up.

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We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

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