Epidemiology in relation to methods for forecasting light leaf spot (Pyrenopeziza brassicae) severity on winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in the UK
Fitt, Bruce D.L.
Jeger, Michael J.
Pyrenopeziza brassicae, cause of light leaf spot of oilseed rape, has a complex polycyclic life cycle. It can be difficult to control light leaf spot in winter oilseed rape in the UK since it is not easy to optimise fungicide application timing. Early autumn infections are usually symptomless and recognisable lesions do not develop until the epidemic has progressed further by the spring. Light leaf spot often has a patchy distribution in winter oilseed rape crops and estimation of disease incidence can be difficult. There is evidence that epidemics are initiated primarily by ascospores produced from apothecia that survive the summer inter-crop period on infected debris. Subsequent development of the epidemic during the winter and spring is maintained by rain-splashed conidia that spread light leaf spot from initial foci. Understanding the relative roles of ascospores and conidia in the light leaf spot life cycle is crucial for forecasting epidemic severity and developing control strategies. The current web-based regional forecast system provides an autumn forecast of the incidence of light leaf spot that can be expected the following spring. This is based on survey data which assesses the occurrence of disease the previous July, and weather factors, such as deviations from summer mean temperature and winter rainfall. The forecast can be updated throughout the autumn and winter and includes crop-specific elements so that growers can adjust risks by inputting information about cultivar, sowing date and fungicide use. Crop-specific forecasts can be confirmed by assessing the incidence of light leaf spot. Such assessments will become easier when immunodiagnostic methods for detection of the disease become available. Incorporation of information on spore biology (e.g. apothecial maturation, ascospore release and infection conditions) is considered as a component of the interactive, continuously updated, crop-specific, web-based forecasts which are needed in the future.