Managing for pesticide resistance, a future without neonicotinoids, a possible pregnancy style test for black-grass, predictions of aphid numbers and yellow rust levels for 2017, were just some of the take home messages from the recent Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) Conference at Whittlebury Hall in Towcester.
The problem of Resistance
UK and European scientists invited by AICC to stage a unique debate, all agreed – managing for resistance in fungicides, pesticides and herbicides continues to be vitally important and is the responsibility of the whole arable community.
Black-grass resistance is a crisis and we must avoid reaching those levels of resistance in other sectors, or with other vitally important actives such as glyphosate, said Dr Paul Neve of Rothamsted Research.
He recognised that whilst we currently don’t have any resistance in black-grass to field rate doses of glyphosate, there have been indications that where dose rates are reduced, there has been a shift in sensitivity and this was a warning sign that must be listened to.
He outlined some of the alternative work that was being carried out to support black-grass control and resistance management such as faster detection of resistance in the form of an in-field pregnancy style test.
Developed with researchers at the University of Newcastle, and commercial partners Mologic, the test works by detecting certain proteins that are produced at higher levels within plants as resistance builds up, and this can be shown by a diagnostic band in much the same way that a pregnancy test works.
Prof Lin Field of Rothamsted Research, who has been involved in the ongoing debate on the moratorium on neonicotinoids, voiced her concerns that neonicotinoids could be gone for good.
The EU has delayed its review of the moratorium and Prof Lin fears that Brussels will extend the ban for longer than the initial two years, and potentially extend it to include other crops and other pesticide groups.
When keeping up with fungicide resistance to Septoria tritici, Dr Rosie Bryson of BASF pointed out that extensive monitoring work continues across the industry. “We don’t need to panic, but we do need to take action and reduce the risk of full scale resistance occurring, she said.
“To date we know that SDHI mutations are at very low levels in the intensive cereal production areas of the UK and Ireland, however, we have to use SDHIs wisely by making sure that they are used with a robust resistance management partner.”
Despite a shift in sensitivity of the azoles both epoxiconazole and prothioconazole are still effective against Septoria at practical dose rates so make sure that they are part of your fungicide programme.
SDHI’s need to be protected to maintain effective disease control particularly when the pipeline of new actives is so much slower now due to the new regulations, she said.
There were some reassuring notes from Andreas Mehl of Bayer who pointed out that SDHI’s had been in the market place for over 10 years, since the launch of boscalid back in 2003, and we were still not yet seeing resistance at worrying levels.
“Recent work by Bayer in the UK and France has shown a recovering sensitivity in septoria to prothioconazole. Ireland is still at higher risk but levels have not changed in the last three years – so this means that the practices that we are adopting are certainly helping to manage the situation.”
Yellow rust raised its ugly head in 2016 affecting many varieties, and this was due to the aggressive nature and rapid changes in the rust races, said Paul Fenwick, pathologist with Limagrain.
Mr Fenwick believes that the Warrior 3 or Invicta race was more widespread in 2016 and hit some varieties hard. He indicated that there was no reason that this season would be any different, and we may start to see an effect from the Kranich race which has now arrived in the UK.
He underlined the importance of adopting an integrated approach by choosing varieties with robust resistances and a carefully considered fungicide programme.
At least predictions for aphid numbers this spring are looking low based on the weather in December and January. “We have already had sufficient aphid-killing ground frosts this winter to have had an impact on numbers, “ said Alan Dewar of Dewar Crop Protection, explaining that the high levels seen in 2016 were a consequence of the relatively mild winter of 2015/16, at least up until late January 2016.
Association of Independent Crop Consultants Academy (AICCA)
The attendance of over 312 industry representatives and agronomists at the recent AICC National Conference reflected the increasing interest in and demand for independent advice.
Reflecting this, two years ago the AICC launched its own, bespoke training academy to assist members in growing their business and to future-proof the continued growth of independent agronomy.
“The aim of AICCA is to enhance the level of expertise of these new entrants post BASIS to provide them with a sound technical platform in preparation for a career in independent agronomy,” explains AICC CEO, Sarah Cowlrick.
“More than 30 trainees have since joined the programme, and this has been way above the initial 8 or 9 originally expected! “
“These trainees are all now at various stages of their training, working alongside established AICC members. They are required to complete 12 modules during this time over a range of topics such as nutrition, black-grass management through to business management opportunities.”
This training is completely funded by the AICC, whilst industry support for training days is a key part of the programme.
“We need to be clear that these are not agronomy apprentices; they are agronomists working in their own right, and the intention is that they are in place to support AICC members who are looking to retire or cut down on their acres, retaining that business within the independent sector and further increasing the AICC market share,” says Mrs Cowlrick.