The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) National Conference took place in Towcester, Northants in January
The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) National Conference took place in Towcester, Northants in January, with record attendance, and highlights included pest and weed control considerations.
The 2016 AICC Conference was the best attended ever with key messages to take away for this coming season.
Controlling cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) is going to need a step change in approach, was the warning from Dewar Crop Protection’s Alan Dewar.
Where crops are badly infected we could be looking at infection levels of over 2 million adults/hectare and programmed spraying will not control this, which leaves us in a crisis situation, with regards to effective control of CSFB, he said.
“Flea beetles move about at different times every autumn so it’s difficult to get the timing right for spraying. Also we cannot ignore the fact that there is increasing resistance to pyrethroids; we are looking at over 50 per cent resistance in some areas, and I don’t see any effective control from other non-pyrethroid autumn sprays, which leaves us without a viable control option.
“We need to look at cultural control practices such as early sowing; August if possible. Increasing seed rates will also help to dilute the damage a given population of beetles will have.”
He also suggests removing flushes of volunteers thereby depleting the food source of the adults that are developing their ovaries in an attempt to reduce fertility before they attack the newly emerged crop.
“Consider providing a trap crop around the edge of the main crop as this may encourage the beetles to lay their eggs in the trap crop and not the main crop, and this can be sprayed off in late autumn to take them out.”
Recent figures published by the AHDB estimate that 1 per cent, which is about 6,000ha, of winter oilseed rape crop losses will be due to cabbage stem flea beetle activity.
NIAB weed biologist John Cussons challenged much of the current thinking on the use of the plough and other post-harvest cultivations for controlling black-grass.
He believes that the reason we see so much variability in results from these cultural practices is due to seasonal influences as well as rotational circumstances that are not sufficiently accounted for.
“Cultivations need to be considered in context and how they will impact a particular grass weed population. In particular, ploughing should be a strategic tool and only used when absolutely necessary.”
Mr Cussans gives the example of a trial, carried out in co-operation with Bayer, that showed an 80-90 per cent reduction on black-grass numbers after ploughing, but also showed a 30-40 per cent variation for ploughing and direct drilling.
The trial was carried out in two blocks; one after a heavily infested winter wheat crop and the second after a spring crop, where seed return would be reduced.
“In the winter wheat scenario, the weed seeds could be found on the surface so ploughing would be effective at burying this. However for the spring crop there would be less on the surface but as it’s a bad black-grass site there were significant seeds in the soil profile – and here ploughing would be less effective – helping to explain the variation in control.
The AICC’s national trials programme encompasses fungicide, herbicide, PGR and nutrition focussed protocols undertaken across the five English AICC membership regions (Central, South, East, West & North), along with Scotland.
New and existing chemistries are comprehensively evaluated, while cereal and oilseed variety evaluation trials are also undertaken to identify varietal disease strengths, weaknesses and responses to inputs, said AICC. For example, recent verticillium wilt trials have helped identify those varieties with a greater tolerance to this new oilseed rape pathogen, said Peter Cowlrick, AICC trials representative.
“We have also highlighted in our wheat variety and fungicide interaction trials, specific varieties that are less responsive to fungicide inputs, specifically to SDHI at the T1 timing, where in the last two seasons responses have ranged from nil, such as for Skyfall and Reflection, and up to 0.9t/ha for varieties such as Kielder and Cordiale.
“With trials data being readily accessible to the AICC membership, agronomic decision making is fully supported, enabling both crop output and input expenditure to be optimised.”
With market forces dictating that grain prices appear set to remain low for at least another 15-18 months, it becomes even more important that growers watch every single penny when it comes to producing their crops – and that the agronomist in charge of recommending plant protection products and other agronomy services to growers is focussed purely on the growers’ margin, said AICC chairman Sean Sparling.
“Every season is a tough season in agriculture but I have yet to participate in that mythical “normal” year. So now when the cost of producing a tonne of wheat looks likely to outstrip the price growers get for selling that tonne, growers need to be confident in the value of the advice and the recommendations they are given.
“What this means is that this season, perhaps more so than ever, growers need to be confident that their agronomists are recommending the best product for the job based upon exhaustive independent trials data and a thorough cost-benefit analysis, all of which is commercially unbiased.”