Epidemiology of Leptosphaeria maculans in relation to forecasting stem canker severity on winter oilseed rape in the UK


*Corresponding author: E-mail: bruce.fitt@bbsrc.ac.uk


In the UK, ascospores of Leptosphaeria maculans first infect leaves of oilseed rape in the autumn to cause phoma leaf spots, from which the fungus can grow to cause stem cankers in the spring. Yield losses due to early senescence and lodging result if the stem cankers become severe before harvest. The risk of severe stem canker epidemics needs to be forecast in the autumn when the pathogen is still in the leaves, since early infections cause the greatest yield losses and fungicides have limited curative activity. Currently, the most effective way to forecast severe stem canker is to monitor the onset of phoma leaf spotting in winter oilseed rape crops, although this does not allow much time in which to apply a fungicide. Early warnings of risks of severe stem canker epidemics could be provided at the beginning of the season through regional forecasts based on disease survey and weather data, with options for input of crop-specific information and for updating forecasts during the winter. The accuracy of such forecasts could be improved by including factors relating to the maturation of ascospores in pseudothecia, the release of ascospores and the occurrence of infection conditions, as they affect the onset, intensity and duration of the phoma leaf spotting phase. Accurate forecasting of severe stem canker epidemics can improve disease control and optimise fungicide use.