Effects of rate and timing of nitrogen fertilizer on disease control by fungicides in winter wheat. 1. Grain yield and foliar disease control
Data from a two-factorial experiment carried out during 3 years were used to analyse the effects of crop nitrogen (N) status on disease development, and the effects of N supply and disease on light interception (IPAR) and radiation use efficiency (RUE) in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum). The factors in the experiment comprised seven strategies of N fertilizer application including different N rates and timing of application, and five doses of fungicide application for control of the leaf diseases powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis) and septoria leaf spot (Septoria tritici). Light interception was estimated from weekly measurements of crop spectral reflectance. The increase of crop dry matter was mainly affected by N fertilizer and disease through effects on IPAR. Early N application increased IPAR and thus dry matter growth more than later N application. A split N strategy may ensure both high N uptake and high growth rates of the crop. Only septoria leaf spot significantly reduced RUE. Septoria leaf spot was found to be up to nine times more detrimental to grain yield than powdery mildew for similar severity levels. Fungicide applications may therefore be reduced in cases of low powdery mildew severity combined with low crop susceptibility to this disease. This low susceptibility was found to be obtainable with split N application strategies, as the severity of both powdery mildew and septoria leaf spot increased with increasing leaf N concentration. A similar but smaller correlation was obtained between disease severity and canopy size. Measurements of canopy size using spectral reflectance may be used as a simple indicator of general crop susceptibility to disease, whereas measurements of leaf N concentration may be used as input into decision support systems for fungicide application.