Disease research for cereals and oilseeds

AHDB research examines the sensitivity of crop pathogens to fungicides and monitors resistance in the UK. We also invest in integrated pest management (IPM), which includes the publication of varietal disease resistance ratings in the Recommended Lists (RL).

The disease management challenge

Many economically important diseases of cereals and oilseed rape are caused by pathogenic fungi. Although fungicides are available to treat crop diseases, product efficacy levels vary, with some pathogens exhibiting degrees of resistance to some mode of action (MoA) groups. As a result, management requires the use of non-chemical interventions, as part of IPM, alongside well-designed fungicide programmes.

AHDB research focuses on:

  • Production of resistance ratings for major diseases, as part of the RL
  • Delivery of independent information on the efficacy of fungicide active ingredients
  • Monitoring resistance to fungicides in cereal pathogens
  • Development of IPM approaches to reduce reliance on chemistry

Some viruses are also economically significant. These include Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in cereals and Turnip yellows virus (TuYV) in oilseed rape. Transmitted (vectored) by aphids, related projects are described on our pest research pages.

Pest research for cereals and oilseeds

Current disease research activity

Fungicide performance trials

Knowledge of the potential power of an active ingredient (or product) is essential in disease management. First and foremost, it will help you gauge the potential return on your spray investments. Critically, it can be used to develop effective fungicide programmes that balance the need to control disease with the need to protect chemistry from fungicide resistance. The current fungicide performance project phase is part of a strategic investment in trials – with the wheat, barley and oilseed rape trial series going back to 1994, 2002, and 2006, respectively. The researchers test new and established products, with latest information released at AHDB’s Agronomists’ Conference (in December) or as soon as new fungicides hit the market.

Fungicide performance in wheat, barley and oilseed rape

Fungicide resistance monitoring

In theory, any pathogen can develop resistance to fungicides. However, the risk is not the same in all pathogens. In wheat, septoria tritici is currently of greatest concern. AHDB-supported work monitors changes in pathogen sensitivities to key fungicide mode of action (MoA) groups and studies the genetic basis of resistance.

Case study: DMI (azole) resistance in septoria tritici

Septoria populations gradually started to become less sensitive to DMIs (azoles) in 2001. The loss of sensitivity is due to various mutations, which are highly variable across the UK. There is a relatively large variation in performance of active ingredients in this group.

Case study: SDHI resistance in septoria tritici

Monitoring of septoria populations started to detect significant shifts in sensitivity to SDHIs in 2017. As SDHIs show cross-resistance with other SDHIs, the efficacy data provides a warning for all users of SDHI chemistry. Like azoles, there appears to be year-on-year and site-to-site variability in control.

Monitoring resistance to foliar fungicides in cereal pathogens

Varietal disease resistance

AHDB Recommended Lists (RL)

Varietal disease resistance is the foundation of control. Our RL trials produce disease resistance ratings for wheat, barley, oat and oilseed rape varieties. Varieties that are more resistant allow greater flexibility in fungicide programmes – including the omission of sprays and the use of reduced doses, especially where disease pressure is low.

About the RL project

UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS)

The UKCPVS continually monitors cereal rusts and mildews in UK varieties. When a change in virulence (ability to cause disease) is detected, the project determines the significance for resistance in RL varieties, in addition to varieties in trials and breeding programmes.

About the UKCPVS project

Other current projects

Breeding durable yellow rust resistance in wheat

Managing concurrent evolution of resistance (PhD)

Improving crop immunity to foliar diseases

Best practice for tank-mixing biopesticides

Reducing crop disease risk through residue management

Identification of fusarium resistance within UK oat breeding lines (PhD 2015)

*A report is submitted at the end of each project. After review (which can take several weeks), the final project report is published on the corresponding project page. At this stage, the project is official complete.

Recently completed projects

Wheat fungicide margin challenge 2021

Managing concurrent evolution of resistance (main project)

Combining agronomy, variety and chemistry to maintain control of septoria tritici in wheat

Provision of oilseed rape decision support systems to the UK arable industry

Enabling the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM)

Barley resistance to rhynchosporium: new sources and closely linked markers (PhD)

Integrated platforms for barley breeding and genetic research

Using field pathogenomics to study wheat yellow rust

All disease research projects

Information on all disease research projects is available in our research archive:

  • In the ‘Sector’ drop-down box, select ‘Cereals & Oilseeds’
  • In the ‘Topic’ drop-down box, select ‘Disease management’

Visit our research archive

Recent crop disease research articles

A ‘ubiquitous’ future for early crop disease detection?

Earthworms: a crop disease biocontrol?

Septoria: ‘Cougar’ effect in RL winter wheat trials

Fungicide resistance management in winter wheat

Oilseed rape tool predicts sclerotinia infection risk (news item)

Breeding wheat to beat yellow rust

‘Unexpected’ clubroot: lessons from an RL trial

Variety blend tool for winter wheat

What is the value of BYDV resistance/tolerance in cereals?

Over half of winter wheat varieties resistant to yellow rust at the young-plant stage

How drill date affects septoria disease resistance ratings in winter wheat

Wheat septoria results show further fungicide efficacy shifts

Light leaf spot forecast now reacts to winter wetness

Septoria disease rating dip revealed by early RL dataset release

Barley rhynchosporium resistance research advanced by PhD

‘Interesting’ wheat yellow rust isolates identified by UKCPVS

Disease research in action

Our Strategic Cereal Farms put cutting-edge research and innovation into practice on commercial farms around the UK.

Trials cover a variety of topics, including testing how varieties can help lower fungicide inputs in a cost-effective way.

Managed lower inputs at Strategic Cereal Farm West