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Fruit & Viticulture

Novel approach to moth control delivers benefits in apple orchards

Pheromones are becoming a mainstream method of controlling important lepidoptera pests in dessert apple orchards across the country.

This season, Agrovista’s fruit agronomy team has been supporting the use of the novel pheromone system called RAK 3+4 across dessert apple orchards at risk of codling and tortrix moth attack.

After a successful run of trials and commercial use over the past few years, many growers were keen to use the system again in their orchards or to try it for the first time, says Agrovista fruit technical manager Alex Radu.

“RAK 3+4 provides control by disrupting mating behaviour, blanketing the orchard with artificial female pheromone released by ampules that hang in the trees.

“This masks natural pheromones given off by female moths so males can no longer find them and mate, preventing females from laying viable eggs.”

Trials have shown the system has consistently saved three or four rounds of insecticide for first generation codling control and has prevented potentially difficult-to-control and highly damaging second generation flights from occurring.

“This has potential economic and environmental benefits, and helps growers meet tightening retailer protocols,” says Mr Radu.

Each RAK ampule has two compartments, one containing artificial codling moth pheromone and the other summer fruit and fruit tree tortrix moth pheromone. Ampules are placed in the top third of trees in late April or early May before the first flights begin, at a rate of 500/ha in a grid formation that provides season-long coverage.

Tough test

Jim Burston, farm manager at Herefordshire-based Tillington Top Fruit has been trialling RAK 3+4 for the past three years.

Jim Burston with a RAK ampule.

Mr Burston manages 350ha of apples and cherries from his base at Upper House Farm, Tillington. Key varieties include Red Prince, Junami, Gala, Red Windsor and Spartan destined for Morrisons and other major retailers. Overall dessert apple output is around 2,500t of fruit a year from 75ha.

Codling moth pressure is very high and summer tortrix moth can also be troublesome, partly due to climate and topography but also because a lot of the farm is planted with cider orchards.

“It is not economic to control codling in established classic cider orchards. They are basically high-rise flats for moths, but we can’t always keep cider and dessert orchards well apart as we plant the later-flowering cider trees in frost pockets spread across the farms,” says Mr Burston.

Codling moth counts in dessert apple orchards regularly exceed threshold, with 30–40 males per week being caught in pheromone traps at some sites season after season. The chemical treatment threshold is just 5 males per week. Second-generation thresholds are also breached, typically in three years out of five.

Until two years ago, three or four insecticide treatments for first generation control was the norm. In 2017 he tried RAK 3+4 on 10ha of dessert apples. No chemical applications were used to control codling or tortrix moths in these orchards and fruit yields and quality were maintained, with no grade-out due to damage.

In 2018, he raised the RAK area to 15ha. The same results were achieved, despite some test orchards being closer to cider orchards, which can reduce the efficacy of RAK 3+4.

This is because they harbour high populations of moths and mating readily occurs. Female moths are not affected by the artificial female pheromone, so they can fly into adjacent RAK-treated orchards and lay eggs.

“As well as helping us in terms of marketing, reducing pesticide use also has obvious environmental benefits and is good for beneficials that help keep moths and other pests at bay,” says Mr Burston.

“The RAK system is also very reliable, offering as good control of the first generation as we were achieving with chemicals, but with a lot less management. We don’t have to worry about getting our timings just right, and it takes the worry out of second-generation control, which can be difficult due to harvest interval limitations.

“It also reduces the amount of paperwork and removes any concerns over harvest intervals and residues on fruit.”

Purchase costs are similar to first-generation chemical control, and the system costs about £65/ha to install each season. “Given the advantages and the level of control, that’s a cost I’m willing to bear,” Mr Burston adds. “In seasons when a second generation occurs, we’d clearly be better off.”

Increasing pressure

This season RAK 3+4 will be used in some dessert orchards adjacent to cider orchards at Tillington to provide an even tougher test.

Mr Radu hopes the results will reflect those at a Cambridgeshire high-risk site in 2015, where only one or two fruits per 1,000 suffered codling moth damage in RAK 3+4 treated areas, compared with 60-70 in untreated areas.

As before, manufacturer BASF is supplying product for part of the work. “They are as keen as Agrovista is to see how well the system copes under increasing pressure,” says Mr Radu.

“We as a company strongly support integrated pest management to help growers reduce pesticide use and its effect on non-target species.

“We believe that through effective monitoring, the use of RAK 3+4 and our GCI pest and disease warning service we can help growers meet these aims while greatly simplifying control programmes for no extra cost.”

Rotary cutters on view

Machinery supplier Simon Richard was at this year’s Royal Highland Show with three Woods Batwing Rotary Cutter models the BW12, BW15 and BW 15.60 with Multi-kit on display.

“The BW15.50 flex-wing cutter is the flagship product sold into the agricultural market with a range of features combining to make it the most durable in the field,” said Simon.

“Steel tubes surround the perimeter to absorb shock and chain shielding integrated within the frame prevents damage. The machine’s beefy, heavy-duty skid shoes prevent gouging and protect the deck, increasing toughness and durability,” he added.

“The machine is also equipped with features that ease maintenance, including grease fittings that are easy to reach and a smooth, sloped deck that’s free of components for easy clean-up and grease-able quick-change blade pins. Rounded wings that slice through brush and a curved leading edge that easily manoeuvers close to trees and poles deliver optimum performance and the calculated positioning of welded baffles optimizes airflow for even cutting and superior distribution.”

Latest vineyard, fruit and orchard tractors at new event

A new event for vineyard owners and managers will provide a showcase for the latest Landini specialist narrow tractors.

Viti-Culture 2019 is thought to be the first event to encapsulate all soil-to-cellar aspects of the wine trade and bring together a range of viticulture, wine-making and business solutions under one roof.

This free to attend show will be held on 11th July 2019 at Plumpton College, East Sussex and is organised by Pitchfork Events, part of The Ramsak Group, a business originally set up as a co-operative to help farmers share resources such as machinery, but which is now a broader enterprise operating within the rural south-east of England.

Machinery dealer Horsepower UK, based at Selling near Faversham, Kent, supplies specialist equipment such as Wanner sprayers, Humus mowing and pulverising machinery, SALF orchard and vineyard access equipment, Weidemann wheel loaders and Ilmer handling equipment.

The company is also one of the UK’s leading dealers for Landini Rex 4 Series specialist fruit tractors, which are available in different configurations to suit a wide range of growing systems for grapes, soft fruit, top fruit and hops – any situation, in fact, where space for machinery is limited.

Vineyard versions of the Rex 4 can be configured to no more than 1m wide, for example; plus a choice of power outputs from 70–102hp – and up to 112hp for the orchard/soft fruit models.

The latest-generation Rex 4 Series tractors come with a number of new and improved features designed to increase productivity and make operating the machines easier and more comfortable.


Among an expanded choice of transmissions, three-speed powershift is available for the first time, enabling operators to quickly change ground speed when towing or working soil-engaging implements without losing momentum.

Fingertip power shuttle shifting between forward and reverse also makes life easier and more comfortable for the operator – as does the front axle suspension developed to cushion the front end of the tractor as it passes over humps and hollows.

The front linkage and PTO options add versatility and added productivity potential to the Rex 4 line-up, while new Eco PTO gearing and Eco 40kph transmission options reduce fuel consumption by lowering engine speeds in work and during transport.

Landini manufacturer Argo Tractors has catered for all weathers with a choice of open platform or new flat floor cab – a design that is more comfortable than sitting astride the transmission tunnel.

It also offers a version of the cab with additional seals and a filtration system for incoming air that can be switched between regular and carbon filters to provide the maximum Category 4 rating for operator protection from exposure to pesticides at lower cost and greater convenience than other solutions.

Crop protection solutions for grapevines

The phenomenal growth in the area under vines in the UK over the past five years is even having an effect on land values. Strutt & Parker’s Farmland Market Review shows arable land prices flat-lining while land suitable for grapevines can gain a £2,000/ha premium. Industry body, WineGB, has recently confirmed that around 3 million vines were planted this year – equating to an additional 690ha of vineyards and a 24 per cent increase in the overall land under vine. This means the UK now has an estimated 3,500ha of vineyards, says crop protection company Certis.

And so how do growers get the best from their vineyard to justify the very high investment costs of a crop which takes three years until the first harvest? Those making sparkling wine (69 per cent of the wines produced now are sparkling) are facing another two years before they have a single bottle to sell.

As crop protection specialists, Certis adds that consistent productivity is difficult to achieve with the British weather being so variable and, according to viticultural consultant Duncan McNeil, English sparkling wine yields need to hit a long term average of 8t/ha, while only currently achieving 3t/ha.

After taking into account the importance of choosing the right site, successful planting and establishment of young vines (and escaping late spring frosts), keeping the vines healthy is the next vital step to making a success of producing quality grapes, says Certis.

Despite all the enthusiasm for this new crop the UK is still small on a global scale – Champagne has around 34,000ha of vines planted for example – but the recent growth reflects the industry’s confidence especially after the near perfect growing year and harvest of 2018.

A reflection of this is the limited availability of crop protection solutions for grapevine growers in the UK. Recognising this, Certis has developed a wide range of conventional and biorational crop solutions to help develop innovative IPM strategies, vital for sustainable production.

The aim behind the 20-page Certis ‘Vine Growers Product Guide’ is to provide both sound cultural advice and a comprehensive guide to what to look out for throughout the vine growing year, says the company. For instance, growers should consider nutrient status of plants and the general health status of the vineyard; manage vineyard trellising and airflow to minimise leaf wetness; plus reduce leaf litter left on the ground as this can be a source of inoculum.

The product guide demonstrates that Certis has a unique vine portfolio of products, some with organic growing approval as well, offering suggestions and solutions to problems from bud burst to leaf fall.

Limited choice

Certis IPM manager, Selchuk (Semo) Kurtev says that unlike arable crops, which have always attracted investment in R&D for full on-label approval, vines in the UK are considered a niche crop so growers only have a limited list of crop protection products. “Certis Europe has recognised that we can help UK vine growers because we can bring our experience of working in France where vines are a major crop by supporting a number of our products with an on-label approval. A good example is Cuprokylt which is a protectant fungicide containing (50% w/w) copper oxychloride for the control of downy mildew, anthracnose and bacterial diseases of grape vines.”

He also points out that the loss of actives has emphasised the need for more biorational crop solutions and Certis has a number including Finalsan, a non-selective bio-herbicide with full label approval for use against annual and perennial weeds, mosses and algae.

“We want to bring sustainable solutions to UK vine growers while recognising that no single company can work on its own,” he concludes.

To request a free copy of The Vine Growers Product Guide, email Certis at [email protected]

Collect free CPD points at Fruit Focus 2019

More than 130 fruit industry suppliers will be attending Fruit Focus in 2019.

The event is not only a great opportunity for learning and networking, but also will help those committed to continuous learning by offering CPD points.

BASIS members heading to Fruit Focus will have the opportunity to collect up to six BASIS CPD points. Members should head to stand 804 with their BASIS membership card for scanning and collect two points for attending the event. Pick up a stamp card to gain further points throughout the day. A total of four extra points can be collected by attending any of the Fruit Forums or Research Tours, with one point gained per activity. Stamp cards should be handed in at the BASIS stand before leaving the event.

NRoSO is offering members two points for attending Fruit Focus. Visit the Organisers Office and present your membership card or complete the register to be awarded your points.

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience gained both formally and informally alongside work, beyond any initial training. Attending Fruit Focus 2019 is an effective way of keeping up with the latest developments and innovations in the fruit growing industry.

Orchard and vineyard machinery specialists

Ledbury based Agrimec is an agricultural engineering firm which started as a distributor of Lamborghini Tractors and Hardi sprayers.

The business has always been involved with niche markets and continues to do so today. It no longer has the Lamborghini tractor franchise but did keep the Hardi sprayer franchise selling crop sprayers and mist blowers for orchards and vineyards.

The company also has the SFM Technology fruit machinery franchise selling fruit harvesting equipment, Perfect specialist mowers for large arable areas and orchards and vineyards and Florida mist blowers for orchards and vineyards.

In addition to these it also sells Pellenc battery powered pruning equipment, which has been enthusiastically received by customers.

The company has a fully equipped workshop with two engineers undertaking maintenance and repair work on all kinds of agricultural and horticultural machinery. It also takes on design and build work mainly for specialist horticultural businesses where there are different requirements to the standard machines on offer. Included in these types of machines are cider apple washers and cleaners, top fruit mist blowers and sprayers for strawberry tunnels and other soft fruit.

Agrimec also stocks hundreds of spare parts in its stores.

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