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Rust Risk Warning for 2011 Forage Oats

08 March 2011

AUSTRALIA - Leaf rust severely impacted forage oat crop productivity during 2010 and with the current above-average rainfall conditions expected to extend into autumn this year, rust outbreaks are likely to be widespread this winter, says

Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) senior plant breeder Bruce Winter said that southern Queensland and northern New South Wales growers should be planning ahead to use improved rust-resistant oat varieties and adopt recommended management practices aimed at increasing production levels.

Winter said the forage oat management strategies to minimise leaf rust infection were outlined in the newly released brochure "Forage oat variety guide 2011" funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and DEEDI.

There are only two leaf rust resistant forage oat varieties available for commercial sale in Queensland and northern NSW with another 11 leaf rust susceptible varieties and a further nine superseded varieties.

Winter said the rust fungal disease was readily identifiable as small, light yellow-orange pustules on the lower leaves which then spread to the upper leaves.

Rust spores, which spread through the air, survive over summer on oat stubble, volunteer oat plants and wild oats and can readily infect new oat crops, particularly if planted too early in the season.

"Leaf rust can build very quickly on susceptible varieties completing a life cycle every two to three weeks to dramatically reduce forage yield and impact on feed quality and palatability," Winter said.

To reduce the risk of leaf rust infection and poor establishment, growers should only plant forage oats from mid-March through to June.

As soon as leaf rust on the lower leaves becomes obvious, the crop should be grazed immediately to a height of 12-15 cm and then managed by frequent grazing at regular intervals.

Winter said new growth following grazing will remain free of rust symptoms for several weeks.

A productive forage oat crop requires as much nitrogen as a high-yielding wheat crop so under favourable growing conditions, oats will benefit from the same nitrogen fertiliser rates applied to wheat.

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