LEAF IPM in Field Vegetables Day

CHAP Scientific Support Coordinator Dr Alex McCormack attended LEAF UK’s event focusing on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Field Vegetables on 15th October.

Lucy Bates, Technical Manager for Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) UK, opened the event by highlighting the urgency with which IPM and new solutions are required, as plant protection products (PPPs) are lost within field vegetables. She also explored the role of the LEAF marque assurance scheme, in promoting the use of IPM techniques in food production. Lucy also outlined the eight principles underlying IPM: prevent and suppress, monitor and forecast, define thresholds for action, consider all options, select the most appropriate, minimise chemical use, strategize and finally review success. Together these principles show the need for a whole farm approach leading to improved resilience, and helping growers decide which tools to use.

Next, Riviera Produce’s agronomist Ellis Luckhurst and Farm Manager David Thomas showed how IPM principles help produce year-round field vegetables. It was surprising to see how they grow cauliflowers and spring greens all year round, with others, such as Savoy and pointed cabbages, being produced for 10-11 months of the year, thanks to the use of varied crop genetics (for example, growing 30 varieties of cauliflower) and Cornwall’s unique microclimates. Ellis said selecting resistant and partially resistant varieties had reduced fungicide use by almost 25%. However, breeding for resistance is a long and challenging process, needing to balance crop quality and disease resistance.

David then examined strip cultivation/tillage, which allows a smaller area of a field to be cultivated. Using GPS, the crop is sown/transplanted into the cultivated strip allowing for better rooting and vigour, whilst preserving soil structure and improving trafficability. He described how cover crop mixtures including linseed, phacelia and clover, had also improved soil structure and biodiversity, but also outlined problems such as establishing following crops, but concluding that ultimately a healthy business depends on healthy soils.

Dr Dawn Teverson, spoke about CHAP partner AHDB’s role, in monitoring UK pests and developing novel PPPs for use in field vegetables. The SCEPTREplus scheme for example, has resulted in several new products being available to the sector through Extension Of Authorisation For Minor Use (EAMU) applications. She also examined the work undertaken with the University of Warwick and Syngenta, to monitor key pests such as diamondback moth, turnip midge and aphids. Using these online tools also helps growers to make IPM decisions, preventing unnecessary pesticide applications which could increase resistance.

Finally, LEAF demonstration farmer Tim Pratt outlined how a whole farm approach has led to improvements in soil health and fertility. It was interesting to hear how he used three separate rotations to cope with variable soil types heavy clay, light heathland or difficult sands. He has also reintroduced livestock to improve soil fertility, with a herd of autumn lambing Dorset sheep grazing on cover crops of stubble turnips, while outdoor reared pigs are useful to clean up missed potatoes. He also highlighted the use of cropping as an IPM technique, growing biofumigant crops and resistant potato varieties to manage Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) levels.

 

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