News

 RSS Feed

» Listings for October 2016

  1. A cooperative of 18 mustard farmers have joined forces to embark on the UK’s biggest ever project to protect and eventually boost pollinator populations.

    The English Mustard Growers (EMG), a farm collective based in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk which supply seed to the Colman’s English Mustard brand, are working in partnership with crop production specialists, Hutchinsons, to map the availability of nectar and pollen throughout the year.

    The aim of the project is to ensure pollinators, such a honey bees, receive a steady supply of food resources, which will in turn support crop yields. The ten year project, which began in 2014, is the biggest of its kind in the UK, covering a total of 10,000 hectares of land, and is fully supported by the British Beekeepers Association. (BBKA)

    Surveying flora and fauna

    Now two years into the project the EMG have been busy growing a variety of plant species, including bulbs, shrubs, hedges and wild flowers across their farmland, to ensure pollinators have enough nectar and pollen supply before hibernation at the end of autumn.  Autumn and spring months are crucial for the survival of honey bees as this is when nectar and pollen supply is at its lowest.

    In a bid to enhance nectar and pollen supply, the farmers participating in the project have planted a total of 21,000 flowering bulbs within their hedgerows, ditches and field margins. One of the participating farms has also planted over 500 native hedge species and plans to grow over 200 shrubs a year to re-generate the surrounding woodland.  

    This comes after survey results revealed the importance of hedges and shrubs to nectar and pollen supply as well as being safe places for bees to breed and escape predators.  Over the autumn period, participating farms intend to grow over 13 hectares of flower rich margins and 3.5 hectares of pollen and nectar mix plants which will provide bees will a supply of food throughout next spring and summer.  

    The project has also importantly inspired farmers to work collectively to connect their land to create extensive wildlife corridors. To date, a total of 85 kilometres of hedgerows and just over 380 kilometres of grass margins, in which many of the new plant varieties are being grown, have been established. This is the equivalent distance of over two laps on the M25.  The longer term ambition of the project is to help protect pollinator populations and boost the broader biodiversity within the region.
     
    In addition to maintaining and eventually improving pollinator populations, the project will also help protect crop yields and boost British agriculture.  Michael Sly, Chairman of the English Mustard Growers explains: “One of our mustard varieties, White Mustard (Gedney), depends entirely on pollinators, such as bees, for its pollination during flowering time.  This, coupled with the significant role bees play in our wider ecosystem, makes this a particularly important area for us to support.”

    Bee on Phacealia

    Delving further into the science behind the project, each of the participating farms underwent a detailed survey in which a botanist calculated the total amount of pollen and nectar available in crops, hedgerows, woodland and field margins.  The data was then used to estimate the amount of pollen and nectar produced by different types of plant species on a month by month basis.

    Mike Hutchinson, director of Hutchinsons crop production specialists, who conducted and analysed the initial survey, and will continue to advise growers for the duration of the project said: “By mapping the availability of pollen and nectar on individual farms on a monthly basis, each farmer can identify where the availability gaps are - usually during early spring and late autumn - and can take measures to enhance supply during these times. Solutions can include changing cutting regimes on grass and flower margins or building diversity into crop production. The aspect which makes this project effective and unique is its scale and ability to monitor nectar and pollen supplies on a month-by-month basis.”

    The collaborative project is an example of how agricultural suppliers, expert advisors and farmers can work together to benefit biodiversity and secure the continuous supply of vital crops.  


    On Farm Practices to increase pollinator populations

    Many pollinating insects have become reliant on a narrow range of arable crops, notably oilseed rape and beans, for their nectar supply and it is crucial to build more diversity into this supply throughout the year, not just the main summer months through stewardship schemes and other measures – and this project is all about fine tuning and improving some of the things that are already in place.

    Mr Hutchinson acknowledges that it may be difficult and potentially quite costly to establish purpose-bought herbaceous seed early in the season, so instead suggests trying to identify and encourage naturally-occurring beneficial plants on certain uncropped areas, field margins or awkward field corners.

    “For example, ground ivy, white/ red deadnettle and dandelion are all useful species for extending insect food availability, while planting early flowering shrubby species such as goat willow and blackthorn can give longer-term benefits.”

    “Changing cutting regimes on grass and flower margins to delay flowering is another relatively easy way to extend food supply for insects, while including late-flowering species like knapweed in any mix is a useful addition for boosting end of season food” he says. “There are also a number of other wild species that flower later in the year, such as field scabious and wild carrot.”

    He adds that all of these measures are designed to be practical, achievable and fit in with the specific landscape of the farm. “We sometimes see land being taken out of food production with the noble intention of providing habitat for pollinators. However, it isn’t until one analyses the entire landscape that it becomes evident that the changes being made are not necessarily having the desired effects.”


  2. A two-spray strategy is key to tackling light leaf spot in many crops of oilseed rape this autumn, according to leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons.
    With high disease risk forecast and recent AHDB research suggesting spore infection may be occurring earlier than previously thought, the traditional approach of one autumn fungicide may prove ineffective in many situations, the firm’s northern regional technical manager Cam Murray says.
    “Light leaf spot is a real issue in this area and early control is certainly better; think of it like the protectant approach to septoria control in wheat.
    “It is vital to get control of the disease from the start. If we don’t there’s little chance of stopping infection spreading from the leaves to the stem in the spring, especially as none of the main fungicide options offer very strong curative ability. Prothioconazole is generally the strongest active on light leaf spot, but that still only offers relatively limited curative control.”

    Cam Murray Hutchinsons

    Mr Murray’s preferred approach is to apply the first fungicide spray in early autumn at the 5-6 leaf stage of the crop and follow this up with a second spray towards the end of October or early November before worsening field conditions prevent travel.

    Prochloraz and propiconazole is a relatively cost-effective mix at the earlier timing, with prothioconazole and tebuconazole preferred for the second spray, he suggests.

    Forward crops (i.e. those with 6-8 leaves by early October) may require growth regulation and in such cases consider metconazole or tebuconazole-based products, adds Hutchinsons technical development director David Ellerton. However these may not offer the level of disease control required if used alone.

    Cereal growth regulator mepiquat chloride in combination with metconazole also has clearance for autumn application in forward oilseed rape, although he says this should be applied at the 4-6 leaf stage for maximum benefit. Again, this product will require an additional fungicide in many situations.

    Mr Murray reinforces the importance of varietal resistance in tackling light leaf spot and suggests that where growers have sown a particularly disease resistant variety (e.g. rated 7 for LLS) there may be scope for a single autumn fungicide.

    “However, if you do go down this route, make sure it goes on earlier rather than later,” he notes.

    LLS with spores

    All growers are reminded that although light leaf spot has traditionally affected crops mainly in Scotland and northern England, it is frequently being found across southern England. Likewise, phoma incidence appears to be spreading further north as climatic conditions change, highlighting the need for constant vigilance and robust agronomy.

    Hutchinsons are involved with the University of Hertford and a number of breeders in projects to increase the durability of varietal disease resistance and progress will be communicated to growers via newsletters and our trial site open days next summer.

    Beware of virus-carrying aphids

    One issue growers should be aware of in future is Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV), which is spread by the peach-potato aphid (Myzus persicae).
    A recent survey by Hutchinsons and Bayer CropScience found oilseed rape crops in Scotland on average had 32% leaf infection with TuYV, while English crops showed 63% infection.

    Aphid resistance to common insecticides such as pyrethroids and pirimicarb, together with the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments means a change in control is needed this season, says Dr Ellerton.

    “There are no cheap and cheerful options for controlling aphids anymore and most are contact-acting, so aphids have to be present for them to work effectively.”

    Both pymetrozine and thiacloprid have approval for use in the autumn to control aphids in oilseed rape and both actives will control resistant populations, he says.

    “Hutchinsons trials have also shown the addition of an adjuvant based on orange oil considerably improved aphid control and reduced TuYV infection.”
    Dr Ellerton recommends growers track aphid activity using monitoring services such as the AHDB/ Rothamsted email alerts and regularly inspect their own crops for aphids where risk is high.

    Insecticide treatments can often be combined with the autumn fungicide, but only if the two timings coincide and neither application timing – nor resulting efficacy - is compromised.

  3. Unusually dry weather across much of southeast England resulting in some oilseed rape crops being written off has heightened the need for a much more flexible approach to agronomy this autumn.

    Kent-based Hutchinsons agronomist David Shepard says just 10-15mm of rain fell across a large area of Kent during August and September, which has hit oilseed rape hard and is creating some real challenges for agronomy.

    “Everything is quite backward due to the weather, with the best crops around the four leaf stage,” he says. “But some crops are only at the cotyledon stage and we’re still waiting to see how they will fare in the next couple weeks, before making a decision on them.”

    The difficult conditions mean it is vital to monitor crops closely over coming weeks and tailor autumn treatments to crop requirements.
    For Mr Shepard this already means a likely switch from a favoured two-spray approach to a single well-timed fungicide for phoma and light leaf spot protection.

    “At the start of the season I’d have gone for two sprays, but given the backward crops and dry weather keeping visible disease levels low, it will probably be just a single spray now, with phoma being the priority.”

    David Shepard H&S

    A large area of more resistant varieties in the ground across his region will help to reduce phoma risk, but the underlying threat remains high so he still recommends applying a fungicide when the treatment threshold of 10-20% plants infected with phoma leaf spot is reached. The Rothamsted Research phoma risk forecast can help identify when this will be reached.

    Boost Backward Oilseed Rape

    Fungicides with growth regulatory activity should not be used on backward crops (i.e. those with around three leaves by early October) and instead it is worth considering products that can help increase rooting, such as those based on penthiopyrad + picoxystrobin.
    Trials have shown excellent control of both phoma and light leaf spot from these actives, with an ability to considerably increase root mass, enabling better nutrient and water uptake without reducing crop size above ground, says Hutchinsons technical development director David Ellerton.
    He also highlights recent AHDB research suggesting light leaf spot is becoming more widespread and spores are being produced earlier in the season than previously thought. He therefore recommends growers apply a fungicide that is effective against both diseases unless variety resistance is particularly strong.

    “If light leaf spot is building earlier before symptoms are visible, it needs treating accordingly. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean the disease isn’t there.”

    Products based on a combination of prothioconazole and tebuconazole are also an excellent option for controlling both phoma and light leaf spot, he says.

    If no early spray has been applied for phoma, then Dr Ellerton says a routine protectant fungicide should be applied for light leaf spot in late October or early November.

    Even where a phoma spray has been applied a second application may be required, especially if the first fungicide was applied very early, he notes.
    Mr Shepard adds that foliar nutrition, such as phosphite or zinc-ammonium acetate complex could be worthwhile at the 1-2 leaf stage to give backward crops an extra boost, especially where dry soils are limiting nutrient uptake from the ground.

    Take Control of Forward Crops

    Any growers with forward crops (i.e. those with 6-8 leaves by early October) requiring growth manipulation and disease control should consider metconazole or tebuconazole-based products, Dr Ellerton adds. However these do not offer the level of disease control of earlier options if used alone.
    Cereal growth regulator mepiquat chloride in combination with metconazole also has clearance for autumn application in forward oilseed rape, although should be applied at the 4-6 leaf stage for maximum benefit. Again this product will require an additional fungicide in many situations.

    David Ellerton (3)

    Beware of virus-carrying aphids

    The other main disease to watch out for this autumn is Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV), which is spread by the peach-potato aphid (Myzus persicae).
    A recent survey by Hutchinsons and Bayer CropScience found oilseed rape crops in England on average had 63% leaf infection with TuYV, while Scottish crops showed 32% infection.

    Aphid resistance to common insecticides such as pyrethroids and pirimicarb, together with the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatments means a change in control is needed this season, Dr Ellerton says. “There are no cheap and cheerful options for controlling aphids anymore and most are contact-acting, so aphids have to be present for them to work effectively.”

    Both pymetrozine and thiacloprid have approval for use in the autumn to control aphids in oilseed rape and both actives will control resistant populations, he says.

    “Hutchinsons trials have also shown the addition of an adjuvant based on orange oil considerably improved aphid control and reduced TuYV infection.”
    Dr Ellerton recommends growers track aphid activity using monitoring services such as the AHDB/ Rothamsted email alerts and regularly inspect their own crops for aphids where risk is high.

    Insecticide treatments can often be combined with the autumn fungicide, but only if the two timings coincide and neither application timing – nor resulting efficacy - is compromised.