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  1. Andrew McShane, managing director of Hutchinsons, looks at how industry collaboration and specifically the crucial role farmers are playing in the process to maintain glyphosate‘s approval by lobbying their MEP’s, has had a positive impact on the decisions made in Strasbourg, and how this can be used as a model for similar future decisions.

    The conflicting issues around whether glyphosate is a carcinogenic hazard arose from a report in March 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that it was ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. However in November 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its own findings concluding “glyphosate was unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.

    On 13th April the European parliament debated whether the glyphosate approval should be renewed although the actual decision rested with the EU Commission.

    andrew mcshane hutchinsons

    UK growers were urged by the NFU to contact their MEP’s to speak out on the importance of glyphosate to their businesses in the fight against yield-robbing weeds such as blackgrass, and for crop desiccation before harvest. Hutchinsons mobilized the support of their agronomy teams and their customers to also lobby extensively in support of a science based debate when reviewing the evidence regarding glyphosate.

    The 13th April outcome was a resolution passed in Strasbourg by 374 votes to 225 (102 abstentions) with MEPs recommending that the European Commission renew glyphosate’s marketing authorisation for another seven years, rather than the 15 originally proposed.

    Subsequently however, the EU Standing Plant Animal Food and Feed Committee (SCPAFF) could not reach a qualified majority when they voted on the re-approval of glyphosate and it now remains to be seen whether a vote will take place in the coming weeks, or whether the commission will be required to cast the deciding vote.

    Mr McShane outlines that the next stage of this review process is unclear. However even if the glyphosate approval lapses after 30th June, there is normally a considerable use-up period for revoked products to allow the supply chain and growers stores to be cleared in the unlikely circumstance that glyphosate was eventually revoked.

    Industry collaboration

    “As a business Hutchinsons has been very committed to industry stewardship to keep what are extremely important, scientifically proven and tested products available for UK growers. It is vital to highlight the scientific evidence supporting agrochemicals.”

    “Glyphosate is a key component of the arable farmer’s toolbox and we have been trying hard to help industry influencers understand what impact the loss of glyphosate as a broad–spectrum herbicide would have on our clients and our advisors’ ability to produce financially viable crops.”

    Mr McShane points out that whilst playing an active lobbying role with fellow advisory businesses through the trade association AIC, Hutchinsons also wrote to their farmer clients to encourage them to lobby their MEPs. “It is important for politicians and regulators to hear both sides of the argument on these issues and we wrote to growers to help ensure that the voice of the British farming community would be heard.”

    Tom Bradshaw, NFU regional crops board chairman for East Anglia, received one of these letters and is delighted that Hutchinsons have actively engaged in the process. He said: “This is an excellent example of the whole industry working together on a vitally important issue. We are doing all we can with the NFU to encourage members to get involved and it is reassuring that companies such as Hutchinsons are taking the matter so seriously as well and doing something about it.”

    One farmer not only wrote to his MEP he also visited him in Brussels. Mr Sandy Wade-Gery - who runs an all arable farming estate in Bedfordshire - believes that the loss of glyphosate is one of the biggest threats to his business that he has ever faced since starting farming back in the 1970’s.

    “It is the most valuable product on our farm and I don’t think we could continue to farm without it. So we wrote to and visited our MEP for the east of England, Geoffrey van Orden, to make sure that he clearly understood what was at stake. He took on board our concerns and he did understand them. It was reassuring to hear that the UK was better represented by bodies such as the CPA and NFU than many other countries in Europe.”

    Mr Wade-Gery’s agronomist Phillip Styles, questions if environmental groups are aware of the implications of the loss of glyphosate on current farm practices. “We would be driven to increasing our cultivations in order to manage weeds and there are all sorts of environmental issues associated with that, contributing to more greenhouse gases and soil erosion.”

    “We would be forced to return to using older chemistry and we really don’t want to do that – as that’s a step backwards in sustainable farming.”

    Whilst good work has been done at this stage, the threat of glyphosate revocation has not gone away Mr McShane highlights. “We absolutely cannot afford to lose our single most important active ingredient at any level, for example, it is still unclear how pre-harvest uses will be legislated. Hutchinsons, together with its clients and others in the agricultural community, must continue to argue the case for the retention of this essential active ingredient.”                                                                                         

  2. A resurgence of septoria and yellow rust in wheat crops has heightened the need for a robust and well-timed flag leaf spray, leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons warns.

    Although cool April conditions held back disease pressure in many crops, the warmer start to May has reignited septoria and rust concerns. Even crops that appear “clean” are at risk as the cool April has extended the latent period between septoria infection and onset of visible symptoms, agronomists warn.

    Problems are most pronounced where earlier T0 and T1 sprays have been disrupted due to poor weather, putting more emphasis on the T2, says technical development director Dave Ellerton.

    “Septoria is always the main threat at T2 and cannot be allowed to establish on the flag leaf.”

    “But we’ve also seen yellow rust flare up again and affect varieties you would not expect it to be a problem in. This may be due to sprays being delayed, but it is a concern that aggressive new rust races are also developing, potentially infecting crops in cooler conditions and later in the season.”

    Recommended List resistance ratings should only be used as guidance and are not definitive, Dr Ellerton warns. “Keep a close eye on every variety and be prepared to knock disease out rapidly. We’ve still got a good range of chemistry available to do that at the flag leaf timing.”

    T2 options and timing

    Applying fungicides with strong curative action is essential given the high disease pressure and Dr Ellerton says that means basing the T2 spray around robust SDHI chemistry.

    Where rust risk is high, a rust-active triazole such as epoxiconazole, tebuconazole or metconazole should be included to bolster curative and protectant activity, he says. “Strobilurins also offer good persistence against rust but have less curative ability.”

    Timing the T2 spray accurately will be trickier this season given the wide variation in growth stages and rapid development of crops making up growth in warmer conditions, he notes. Crops typically ranged from stem extension (GS 30) to GS 33 (third node detectable) at the time of writing (see regional roundup below).

    “Once the flag leaf is at least three-quarters to fully emerged, that’s when you have to apply the T2, even if that’s only 10-14 days after the T1. You cannot afford to leave the flag leaf exposed and let disease in as you’ll struggle to knock it out. If you end up trying to chase septoria, you’re in big trouble.”

    A well-timed T2 spray also allows growers to focus on the key ear diseases at T3 rather than having to chase foliar control, Dr Ellerton adds. “Weather at ear emergence dictates T3 choice. Cool and wet favours microdochium development, so prothioconazole is the better option. Warm, wet conditions favour fusarium, in which case prothioconazole, tebuconazole and metconazole are all effective.”
    He advises growers use the AHDB fusarium risk assessment http://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/mycotoxins

    resurgence of septoria

    Regional round-up

    South east – James Short, Kent

    Wheat crops in Kent tend to be some of the earliest in the country, but even here progress is 7-10 days behind normal, according to James Short.
    “There’s an incredible range of growth stages from 30 to 33 across different varieties, soil types and drilling dates. Most crops have received their T1 fungicide and the weather over the next fortnight will dictate speed of crop and disease development ahead of the flag leaf spray.”

    Although disease pressure in some crops appears relatively low, he believes infection is present within canopies and symptoms could easily flare up given the right conditions. Septoria, yellow and brown rust are already affecting older varieties with weaker disease ratings, but all crops should be regarded as being at high risk, he says.

    Mr Short favours robust rates of fluxapyroxad and epoxiconazole + metconazole at T2, with doses tweaked according to disease pressure.

    Southwest – Amie Hunter, Cornwall

    The majority of wheat crops in the southwest have reached GS 33 and should receive the flag leaf spray by the third week in May, depending on the weather, Amie Hunter says.

    “Growth is around a week behind normal, but crops should even-up in the warmer weather. Forward wheats have a lot of potential, but disease pressure is high.”

    With very little yellow rust in evidence, apart from a few cases in the variety Reflection, septoria is the main concern, she continues. “There’s a lot on lower leaves and I suspect there’s a lot in the crop that’s still in the latent phase and not yet showing symptoms.”

    She too advises a robust 1.25litres/ha dose of fluxapyroxad as the T2 foundation, together with a triazole-based partner such as epoxiconazole + metconazole, or epoxiconazole + fenpropimorph if mildew is an issue.

    Barley crops also face high disease pressure, with rhynchosporium being the main concern and some ramularia starting to show in crops close to the coast, she notes.

    Scotland – Cameron Ferguson, Ayrshire

    Ayrshire agronomist Cameron Ferguson is battling to keep septoria at bay in forward wheats at GS 32, while backward crops are barely past late-tillering after an unseasonably cold, wet April that has played havoc with early fungicides.

    “Some growers have really struggled to find an opportunity to apply the T0 and for many it is now stretching into the T1 window. Most T1s should be applied in the next week, providing the weather settles down, which puts the T2 spray around the end of May.

    “After the mildest winter on record it’s already become a very difficult season and one that’s made worse by the tight margins across livestock and arable sectors.”

    He urges growers to resist the temptation to cut fungicide costs too far and run the risk of letting disease get established. Where disease pressure is high, especially if the T0 has been missed, he recommends supporting epoxiconazole and chlorothalonil-based products at T1 with the stronger curative action offered by SDHIs such as penthiopyrad or fluxapyroxad.

    Mr Ferguson also says rhynchosporium pressure in barley is higher than normal and advises growers to be vigilant in the run up to the T2 spray.
    Prothioconazole is the most effective triazole in barley, but should be bolstered with penthiopyrad or fluxapyroxad where pressure is high. “Epoxiconazole + isopyrazam is another option that works well.”

  3. The cold and wet conditions of spring have proved a challenge for the six teams hoping to grow the most profitable crop of peas in this year’s Cereals Challenge.

    Six plots at the site of the 2016 Cereals event, Chrishall Grange Farm in Cambridge, were officially handed over to the student teams back in February with the challenge to grow the most profitable crop of peas.  

    It is the first time that peas have been grown in the seven years that the Cereals Challenge has been running, in recognition of the UN declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

    Since then each team has had complete responsibility for their crop from choosing which variety to grow, drilling details, making the real-time agronomy decisions on inputs, and finally advice on harvesting the crop.

    The plots will be handed over to the judges the day before the Cereals event when Keith Norman, technical director at Velcourt, Dick Neale, technical manager of Hutchinsons, Roger Vickers of the PGRO and Claire Domoney from the John Innes Centre will collectively decide which team will be crowned the 2016 Cereals Challenge winner. This will be based on each team’s agronomic recommendations (evaluating their appropriateness and timeliness for each recommendation), input cost management, estimated crop yield and the quality, as well as harvesting advice.  

    peas cereals challenge 2016
    Cereals Challenge 2016 - Peas

    “Establishing peas in cold and wet conditions is never easy, so the teams had to consider this from the very start. All of the plots were drilled on the 21st March, however individual teams needed to advise on the seed depth and rate, post-drilling soil management and also to plan ahead for early disease and pest threats,” says Andrew Mortimer of Velcourt who is responsible for the day to day management of the crops.

    The Harper Adams University team are happy with how their crop has emerged. ”Seed bed conditions were good at drilling, the peas were drilled at 3cm depth and we stayed with the standard seed rate of 268kg/ha, so only time will tell if this should have been increased in light of the cold and wet conditions, which could affect establishment percentage,” says Alex Aston, team captain.

    The Royal Agricultural University team did however decide to increase the recommended seed rate to 302kg/ha for their plot of Prophet, and based on how the crop has established think this was the right decision.

    Rhys Jones captain of the Bishop Burton team, who are growing the marrowfat pea Sakura, believes that downy mildew will be the key disease threat to their crop. For this reason the team chose a variety that had good overall disease resistance but also used an effective seed dressing that would protect the crop and ensure it emerged well.

    “Despite the cold conditions there’s been very little frost to date, so we are concerned about high aphid populations, and we will monitor threshold levels and spray an insecticide as and when these are met” he says.

    However the Newcastle University team have had an early focus on weeds. “We chose to grow the blue pea Prophet as we felt it was a less risky and costly option than a premium marrowfat. We have opted for a robust pre-emergence herbicide programme, based around three actives, so that we can hit the weeds strongly as soon as they start actively growing. We settled on Nirvana (3l/ha) and Centium (0.2l/ha),” says team captain Susannah Franks.
    Like any real time agronomists, the teams will now need to continue to manage their peas going through until Cereals, ensuring that they respond to any particular crop or seasonal events. The final stage of the Challenge requires them to think about any pre-harvest treatments and a harvest plan for their crop.

    susannah franks newcastle
    Susannah Franks - Newcastle Team Captain

    Simon Allen, lecturer at Harper Adams University and tutor to the team, believes that the Cereals Challenge is an excellent initiative in that it gets the students thinking about the bigger picture and involves them networking with a range of experts throughout the industry (agronomists, distributors, manufacturers etc.)

    “The dialogue and discussions with industry experts adds breadth to their studies, it clearly motivates them to do well, and both sides enjoy the contact.”

    The winning team will be announced at the Cereals Event, at 11am on the 15th June at the Velcourt stand (703). Follow the 2016 Cereals Challenge on Twitter @CerealChallenge where you can meet the teams and keep up-to-date with what is happening on the plots.