Growers warned to be vigilant as UK wheat pests threaten crops

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Crops, Cereal, Hgca

Wheat growers in the UK have been warned their crops are at risk
from a number of destructive pests that are flourishing in the
current weather conditions.

According to the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), orange wheat blossom midge is thriving in the recent high temperatures, with soil samples showing a substantial increase in the pest's larvae. The midge only flies in air temperatures above 15 degrees celcius and warm, damp soil creates ideal conditions for its larvae to pulpate. Thanks to this year's unusually warm spring with sporadic rainfall, the pest has become more prevalent. Farmers should be particularly vigilant as the crops enter the vulnerable stage of ear development towards the end of this month. This period coincides with the predicted hatching of many of the larvae, according to estimates from the HGCA. The organisation advises placing pheromone traps in crops already damaged by the pest within the last two harvest years, as these will commonly be the most common areas of midge infestation. And it's not just the orange wheat blossom midge growers need to be on the lookout for - incidences of brown rust have also risen this year. The rust, which attacks wheat, barley and rye, commonly occurs in autumn and causes brown/orange pustules to develop on crop leaves. Levels of brown rust are currently higher than expected for this stage of the growing season. The HGCA has said the warm weather of the past two weeks has led to a significant increase in the rust, which is now affecting a greater number of crop varieties. Altering fungicide schemes to safeguard crops could prove costly for growers who are being advised to switch to more effective sprays. Cereal pathologist with the Agricultural and Development Advisory Service (ADAS) Bill Clark said: "It could be an expensive season keeping on top of this disease which is traditionally only of concern late in the season."

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