French Grain Beset by Unprecedented Levels of Yellow Rust

France’s wheat and barley crops are facing “unprecedented” levels of yellow rust fungal disease this year, crop researcher Arvalis said.

The disease, which can cut production, has infested plots of wheat, barley and triticale, with the number of infections “exploding,” in some cases even after treatment of the crops, Arvalis wrote in an online report today.

Wheat yield losses of 40 percent from yellow rust can be common, and the disease can destroy entire fields, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Losses in France can be 3 to 4 metric tons per hectare (2.47 acres), Remi Haquin, cereal specialist at French crop office FranceAgriMer, said at a news conference today in Montreuil-sous-Bois, outside Paris.

The year has been “strongly marked by the rusts, particularly yellow rust, even with sustained fungicide application,” Maggy Muckensturm, head of FranceAgriMer’s Cere’Obs crop-monitoring service, said at the meeting.

France is the European Union’s largest soft-wheat grower, and alternates with Germany as the top producer of barley.

Grain farmers in France who had planned to apply two fungicide treatments to their crop will have had to spray three times, Haquin said. Fungicide use has kept the disease in check so far, according to Muckensturm.

Winter barley harvesting is expected to start in Burgundy this week, while cutting of durum wheat will commence in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, according to Muckensturm.

Winter barley grain-ear development was about 10 days ahead of the average of recent years in Burgundy and Picardie, according to a presentation by Muckensturm. Soft wheat was 9 days ahead of normal in Lorraine, and 7 days in Picardie, Burgundy and Poitou-Charentes, the data showed.

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