SwiftDetect: Rapid disease testing can save money on Septoria treatment

Septoria in Crusoe winter wheat, but what risk does it pose to the crop?
Septoria in Crusoe winter wheat, but what risk does it pose to the crop?

Spring Septoria pressures in wheat are reported to be high to medium across much of the UK thanks to proven rapid disease testing that’s helping agronomists and farmers to manage disease risk with accurate data at their disposal.

Damian McAuley is a senior agronomist for Indigro and since he started using SwiftDetect in 2021, he says it’s saved his clients money. One farmer has already saved £1,600 on Septoria fungicides from a £70 SwiftDetect test.

“On one of our client’s farms, we tested for Septoria at pre T1 (leaf 3) stage,” he said. “One end of the farm was reported to be high risk and the other end low risk. We therefore tailored the inputs accordingly and pulled back fungicide rates by roughly 10 per cent on 400ha of wheat, making a £1,600 cost saving.”

Evidence of higher than typical Septoria levels this spring has been seen in Kinross, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Cornwall, North Yorkshire, Herefordshire, and Lincolnshire. This is down to the increased uptake of SwiftDetect – the rapid test that can detect disease down to just a few pathogen cells, even in the latent period.

“With more agronomists and farmers coming on board, we’re able to compare data and are seeing more Septoria this year than last,” SwiftDetect’s crop diagnostics manager, Chris Steele, said.

“After a mild winter, we saw disease pressures increase followed by heavy rain earlier in the year, which reduced Yellow Rust but increased Septoria risk, and the moisture is still there in the crop.

“The Yellow Rust risk is still around waiting in the wings to pounce and can be found especially on varieties such as Zyatt, Skyfall and even Extase,” Mr Steele added. “Mildew seems to have disappeared, but can still be found in the most susceptible varieties and in areas that are sheltered and/or in headlands.”

Indigro agronomist Damian McAuley
Indigro agronomist Damian McAuley.

Indigro’s Damian McAuley, said the rapid turnaround of SwiftDetect testing was what sets it apart.

“We work a week ahead and we need a quick turnaround,” he added. “Without accurate testing, you can see disease in crops but it’s more difficult to plan for risk, because you don’t always know the extent of the disease threat, especially if it’s in the early stages where in some cases it isn’t visible.

“SwiftDetect gives genuine hard data, reported in a traffic light system, showing whether the disease is low, medium or high risk, so you can plan your treatment accordingly.

“Early in the season at pre T0 stage, we sampled some rust susceptible Zyatt to see the risk threat. The results came back as low risk, so we didn’t treat pre T0 with tebuconazole, which would have cost about £5/ha, plus sprayer time and diesel, which saved approximately £1,500 across a 300ha area.

“The test costs us £70 each time and results come back in one working day, potentially saving us time, money and crucially, impacting the environment less.”

SwiftDetect gives real time insight into the level of disease in a crop, allowing fungicides to target the disease more effectively and efficiently by using the appropriate product and dose rate.

This year, more diseases have been added to the service, including: Septoria in wheat; yellow rust in wheat; brown rust in wheat; mildew in wheat; and Ramularia in barley. Light leaf spot in oilseed rape will be added from autumn 2022.