Barley is the second most popular cereal crop grown in the UK, with 5.52 million tonnes grown in 2012. Prior to 1998, Ramularia (RLS) was not a significant disease problem in the UK, but it is now regarded as the second most destructive foliar pathogen in the north and west of the country. With a sudden, rapid increase in the incidence of RLS, there was an urgent need for information on the disease and how to control it. Scotland’s Rural College with key partners in HGCAfunded research quickly provided growers with the first fungicide programmes aimed at controlling RLS in barley crops, saving the industry an estimated £5.4 million per annum from 2001 onwards. A forecasting scheme, based on leaf wetness, was introduced in 2010. The risk scheme allows farmers to adjust fungicide programmes if they are located in a low- or high-risk region. The development of the first PCR diagnostic allowed the fungus to be detected in leaves two to four weeks before symptoms appeared. This enabled growers to target fungicide application, providing crop protection in advance of visible disease symptoms. In Scotland, the area protected from Ramularia by an effective fungicide rose from 4,000 ha to over 160,000 ha in just two years, and more than trebled in the entire UK to just over 350,000 ha. Providing practical information to industry (farming, malting and brewing, seed and agrochemical) has been an integral part of the research undertaken in the past 14 years. Official resistance ratings for Ramularia in spring barley varieties were published for the first time in 2013. This significant finding is now informing the selection of the most appropriate varieties to grow, thus reducing reliance on pesticides and bringing both environmental and economic benefits.


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