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British potato growers provided with improved tools to tackle PCN

Related imageThe findings from on-farm trials could help combat a deadly potato disease that causes around £26 million worth of damage to crops in the UK each year. According to demonstrations carried out by AHDB Potatoes and Harper Adams University, the use of fluopyram, previously used as a fungicide, as a nematicide provided a yield increase to a range of potato varieties at a farm with very high levels of Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN). The findings come after on-farm trials were held in Shropshire during the 2017 growing season that looked in greater detail at the control of PCN. The aim is to improve the tools available to growers and agronomists for dealing with infestations. The results were announced at AHDB’s Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm West results day in late January, to an audience of more than 60 growers and agronomists. 

Dr Anne Stone, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB Potatoes said: “The use of nematicides gave a highly significant yield increase across the varieties planted. We saw interesting results that may suggest varieties display different relative-levels of tolerance at different infestation rates.

“The new Bayer product which contains fluopyram was compared with Nemathorin and Vydate. It performed as expected, showing a yield increase compared with an untreated control, though the other nematicides out-performed it.

“This is consistent with trials elsewhere which have shown, when used in isolation the new treatment is less effective than others under high pressure situations. There was excitement about the new product at the event because it provides an extra line of defence against this resilient pest, and is also easy to apply.”

Though the SPot Farm trail with fluopyram sought to consider its potential contribution to PCN control by testing it in isolation under high pressure, in extreme situations Bayer is not promoting it as a single-use solution, but as part of a programme with conventional nematicides and resistant varieties. 

Bayer regional technical manager for Shropshire, Gareth Bubb described the contribution of fluopyram to reducing cysts and eggs as “impressive, but not a silver bullet” adding that it will provide “those with low to moderate PCN infestations an opportunity to combat populations and will form an important part of their nematode control strategy”. 

Details on application rates and programme partners would follow once the product receives regulatory approval, he said.

The 2017 growing season was Heal Farms’ first as part of AHDB’s Strategic Farms network, which comprises 46 farms nationally that act as a hub for farmer-to-farmer learning and discussion.

Dr Stone said: “Inspiration for farmers to adopt new technologies and make beneficial changes on farm must come from voices they are familiar with and trust. This is why AHDB is investing over £1m in our Farm Excellence network every year, to build on and create new groups to allow more farmers to see action on farm and channel innovation at those that can use it the most.

 “Our host farmer Matthew Wallace of Heal Farms chose to engage with the Strategic Farm programme to tackle the issue of PCN management, an area he was hoping to improve.

“Trials are specific to the soil type and infestation levels of each specific farm, but the numbers here today show there are a number of people looking for information on this subject.”

The trials will continue at Heal Farms during 2018, for more information visit potatoes.ahdb.org.uk.