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Reduce blackleg risk in seed

18 January 2012

Growers should take suitable measures this season to minimise the chances of blackleg infections in the field this coming season, warns Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research plant pathologist Dr Glyn Harper. 

The previous wet autumn in Scotland and the north of England produced favourable conditions for blackleg disease development with a consequent high risk of disease in harvested seed crops, so Glyn recommends growers take particular care with susceptible varieties and offers the following advice:
Seed health:
Assess the seed immediately it arrives to confirm the overall quality of the seed is as expected. Blackleg disease potential is related to the intensity of bacterial seed tuber contamination and tests can be undertaken to provide further knowledge of the risk of disease in particular stocks. 
This assessment classifies stocks according to three risk groups:  low, medium and high. Please note this evaluation is indicative of the disease potential and should be considered along with the other factors mentioned in this article. For information about organisations that can provide such testing and advice based on their findings please contact storage advice line (number at the end of this article).
Seed delivery: 
Plan carefully how to manage or store seed between delivery and planting. Adverse weather conditions may delay planting but warm, moist conditions within a seed bag or box placed in a shed provide favourable conditions for disease development. You will need to evaluate where the seed will be stored to control temperature and provide air flow. 
Care should be taken to avoid mechanical damage or seed de-sprouting during planting, both of which provide an entry for the disease. 
Blackleg thrives in warm moist conditions for example conditions of high rainfall and poor drainage. Where possible, select fields with good drainage and avoid or address areas of water logging. Short rotations can provide opportunities for carry-over of disease on ground keepers so should be avoided, particularly in fields with recent history of soft rot problems. Re-schedule irrigation during periods of heavy rainfall and avoid excessive irrigation.  
To view the varieties most susceptible to this disease go to or contact your seed supplier.
Growers needing further advice can call the storage advice line on 0800 0282 111. 
Printable Version Grower Gateway - Issue 1, 2012
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