Product losses and emergency approvals make the growing of profitable crops very precarious – Arable Farming – Darryl Shailes

My list of wishes in my last column didn’t include the biggest flood in the Waveney Valley since 1968, but it happened nonetheless ...

On Christmas Eve a nearby measuring station recorded its highest ever water level up by nearly 0.5 metres. We were lucky the water didn’t get into the house; we were concerned enough to put sand bags out though. Others were less fortunate and my thoughts are with them as an already difficult Christmas, with all the Covid-19 restrictions, was made even tougher.

The rain continues and as the water was starting to recede after the fifth time the garden has flooded this winter, we saw a pair of egrets feeding. This was a first for us, so an upside to the challenges of living where we do.

The new emergency approval for Cruiser SB (thiamethoxam) was on my list. We must once again thank the British Beet Research Organisation, especially Prof Mark Stevens, for all their hard work. The devil is in the detail, however, and there are several caveats to be met before we can use it.

This will go a long way towards managing virus yellows which was so devastating last season, but we must not take our eyes off the ball as some foliar intervention may also be needed.

However, we lost Vydate (oxamyl), adding another complication to the world we live in. There are some emergency approvals being sought which may be approved by the time you read this.

These challenges of product loss and emergency approvals make the growing of profitable crops very precarious and we must find ways of managing things in a more sustainable manner if we are to endure.

The loss of Vydate will, of course, have implications beyond sugar beet, where it was used to help with free living nematode (FLN) feeding damage, causing docking disorder. Docking is a nice little village in north Norfolk and will be forever known to some for the fanging associated with sugar beet grown on its sandy soils.

Of course, Vydate was also used in potatoes for potato cyst nematode (PCN) and FLN management. Vydate has long been the standard treatment for spraing caused by tobacco rattle virus carried by trichodorus and paratrichodorus nematodes and will be missed.

It will also be missed for short-term crops and its PCN activity due to a reduced harvest interval over alternatives and most growers will have to spend on different application equipment to use the alternatives where they exist. But it just shows how fickle the approval system is at present, so we must seek alternative methods of growing crops in a more sustainable manner.

We all know what a great job the newer Pallida-resistant varieties do to PCN populations and their very positive effects on Pf/Pi.

Huge reductions

We’ve demonstrated it in our own trials on the Fen demo site, but also others on sand and silt. The effect on PCN populations by growing resistant varieties is incredible and we’ve seen huge reductions in PCN numbers on even the most badly affected fields.

However, their update is limited by a very conservative end market and the apparent lack of enthusiasm to utilise alternative varieties to help manage PCN. We only need one other loss of active and we are in a real mess.

Growers must take this on board, there’s no point in being a grower of Markies or double cropping salads and farming yourself into a corner without looking at alternatives. It will take effort and growers will need to be working with chip shops, packers and processors to gradually introduce alternative varieties. But it can work and some are already doing so successfully.

Sustainability is one of the buzzwords in agriculture at present, but it shouldn’t remain a buzzword. It should be at the heart of all the decisions we make going forward.

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