Geographic variation in severity of phoma stem canker and Leptosphaeria maculans/L. biglobosa populations on UK winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus)
Stonard, J. F.
Latunde-Dada, A. O.
West, Jon S.
Fitt, Bruce D.L.
Phoma stem canker, caused by Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa, is the most important disease of oilseed rape in Europe. Differences between L. maculans and L. biglobosa in their life-cycles enable the two species to co-exist on oilseed rape crops over a cropping season. This review considers the factors affecting geographic variation in the severity of phoma stem canker epidemics and in the structure of the population of the pathogens in the UK, where the most severe epidemics occur in the south of England and cankers do not develop in Scotland. It is concluded that this variation is directly related to differences in climate, since weather-based models show that stem canker severity increases with increasing winter/spring temperature and temperatures are greater in the south of the UK. It may also be related to differences in pathogen populations, since surveys showed that the proportion of the more damaging L. maculans in stem cankers was greatest in southern England, with most L. biglobosa in northern England. Regional variation in agronomic practices such as cultivar choice and fungicide use may also indirectly influence phoma stem canker severity. Differences in cultivar choice result in differences in L. maculans race structure, which may influence the severity of epidemics. Differences in fungicide use may also influence pathogen populations, since L. maculans and L. biglobosa differ in their sensitivities to different azole fungicides. These factors are discussed in relation to strategies for sustainable production of oilseed rape by adaptation to threats posed by climate change.