Providingindependent, technical solutions to the ever increasing agronomic challengesfaced by the arable industry in light of increasing pesticide regulation,disease resistance and CAP reform was the theme of the recent Association ofIndependent Crop Consultants (AICC) Conference.
Thearable industry needs to adopt a more collaborative approach to protect thechemistry we still have, but at the same time embrace the cultural and moreinnovative technologies that are rapidly developing to support agronomists andtheir farmers into the future, said Sarah Cowlrick, CEO of the AICC andconference manager.
AICC’s CEO Sarah Cowlrick.
With over 240 independent agronomist members advising on over 1.15m ha and anestimated or 43% of the UKs area, the AICC is becoming increasingly importantand it is crucial that our members have access to the most up to date,technical solutions from industry experts not just from the UK but acrossEurope, that will make a difference on farm The thirst for this highlytechnical exchange and debate was reflected in the highest number of attendeesever to our conference, many of whom were new entrants or trainees working withestablished independents.
RobertGooch, highlighted the impact of the impending CAP reforms on current rotationsand environmental schemes across different regions of the UK, advisingagronomists to look carefully at how the limit of 3 crops would work on farm aswell as the impact of the 5% greening, underlining that the ELS scheme is beingphased out and some of the ELS options will end up in the new greening scheme.
MrGooch emphasised the importance of fully understanding the costs associatedwith non-compliance.
Theimportance of feeding an increasingly populated Africa and India, as well asthe focus on non-cereal cropping globally with a shift from chemical to geneticcrop solutions, raised much interest following a presentation from CedricPorter of Supply Intelligence. Agronomists will be increasingly required tooffer a more collaborative service to growers encompassing technical, businessand marketing advice in the next five to ten years to meet these globaldemands.
Providinga cross industry perspective on how wheat yields could be improved, DanielKindred of ADAS discussed how various projects were addressing the impact ofnitrogen on yields and urged delegates to better understand the variations of scaleof nitrogen requirements across fields, farms, regions and seasons and to makeuse of the data and technology to do this such as yield maps, canopy sensingand to investigate the possibilities of improving fertiliser recovery.
Adas’ Daniel Kindred.
Withthe neonicotinoid ban in place for this autumn, options for growing winteroilseed rape were discussed. Alan Dewar raised his concerns on the impact thatthe ban would have on flea beetle and aphid control in oilseed rape crops andwarned against insurance spraying which will exacerbate increasing insecticideresistance in both pests.
DrDewar suggested that an earlier pyrethroid spray in the autumn would probablybe necessary to control adult flea beetles, but may also select for resistancein this species; this has already been recorded in Germany since 2012, and maynow be in the UK too.
Foraphid control, there is only one option left the use of Plenum especiallywith added oil. However this product can be applied only once, and will be moreexpensive than the pyrethroid sprays it would replace. It therefore should beused only when necessary, to lower the risk of aphids developing resistance tothis product too, he said.
Theuse of companion cropping to boost yields in oilseed rape is a topic that isgaining much industry interest. Jerome Vasseur of French seed company, JouffrayDrillaud, outlined the benefits that companion cropping offers – improvedoilseed rape yields with a reduction on inputs, a nitrogen supply at the end ofthe winter and a reduction in weed competition whilst having a positive effecton soil structure.
MrVasseur noted that the approach did not suit situations where weed pressure wasvery high or where ploughing was carried out.
Theclaimed superior early vigour of hybrid oilseed rape varieties in times ofstress is questionable, Simon Kightley of NIAB TAG told agronomists at theconference, reporting on a three-year study. We have failed to see anyevidence to confirm the superior early vigour from hybrids in late sown orstressed conditions in autumn. This is in contrast to spring rape hybrids whishoften do show very good early vigour. With winter hybrids vigour really onlybecomes apparent during canopy development in the spring.
MrKightley added that trials from NIAB TAG did not show any evidence that widerrows (40 cm) had a positive effect on yield, and that the more traditionalnarrow rows were marginally higher yielding.
2014 Disease threats
Wheatcrops may need to be protected against brown rust this spring said JonathanBlake of ADAS. Many varieties drilled this autumn have a brown rust weaknessand Mr Blake confirmed. The last time we had a brown rust epidemic was in 2006when winter temperatures were 1-2C above average so we are possibly looking ata similar situation once again.
MrBlake added that an SDHI + triazole mix would still be the best approach tomanaging disease with Adexar, Aviator and the new SDHI Vertisan (when appliedwith an azole) all offering similar yield benefits at T2.
AtT1 Seguris matches the performance of Adexar and Aviator, and this would be agood option in the absence of eyespot. However where eyespot is a concern,Tracker outperforms the SDHI choice.
BillClark of NIAB TAG added that he also believed that yellow rust would be athreat this spring. There is already evidence of yellow rust on varieties thatare susceptible at the seedling stage and there is plenty of inoculum in crops,and unless we have a run of severe frosts we could be looking at a severeyellow rust epidemic.
MrClark emphasised the importance of including SDHIs in any fungicide programmeto protect yield. He also warned against cutting doses, even in low diseasepressure situations, as this increased the risk of serious yield losses if therisk assessment is wrong.
Phosphorustesting is key to promoting yields and improving nitrogen use efficiency JamesHolmes of ADAS told agronomists at the conference. Soil type and conditionwill have an effect on indices so regular sampling every four five years isadvisable. We are currently looking at the ways in which phosphorus is suppliedto determine which is the most effective and at what indices level take up andeffect is optimised.