Thursday, November 15, 2018

Different dessicants top agenda for agronomists

November 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

The need to consider alternatives to Diquat was the main topic of discussion at the final AHDB Strategic Potato Farm field walk of the season.

Some 45 agronomists attended the event, held at Somerby Top Farm, North Lincolnshire. Discussions were led by Graham Tomalin, of VCS Agronomy, who talked about different strategies after Diquat approval is withdrawn.

Varieties

He showed how 26 varieties of potatoes planted for a herbicide trial, reacted to the use of different combinations of desiccant agrochemicals, and provided insight into alternative strategies growers could use.

Diquat has been the go-to desiccant for potato growers since the ban on sulphuric acid. It will be withdrawn in 2019/2020 – and flailing could become more important with immature crops and indeterminate varieties.

Quality vital

With canopies that are senescing, alternative chemicals will desiccate most varieties but this may take longer. Currently approved alternatives are better targeted to stems and are less effective on leaves than Diquat.

Application quality is vital to achieving the best results from any desiccant application, said Mr Tomalin. Coverage is important and slower forward speed when spraying, water volume and angled nozzles may all improve this.

Mr Tomalin said: “There are potential future alternatives to Diquat, but these still need approval. Growers will need to consider the costs to benefits ratio for each option.”

Plan ahead

Amber Cottingham, AHDB knowledge exchange manager for the East Midlands told agronomists that the organisation is viewing the loss of Diquat as a priority, which is why trials investigating alternatives are so important.

She said: “It’s vital we explore and trial the alternatives. We all know that a good burn down of crops is vital to ensure adequate skin set for harvest, this can be difficult without Diquat.

“This could risk potatoes being damaged at harvest leaving them exposed to infection during storage. Planning ahead, routine maintenance and adapting machinery settings to the conditions are the key areas to reduce damage during harvest.”

More irrigation

Later at the event, Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF reflected on how yields might be affected by the driest season on record. Irrigated crops stand a very good chance of being high-yielding, he said. This meant irrigation frequency would be  key to high yields if hot seasons became more common.

“Irrigating at 3-4-day intervals with 15-20 mm and maintaining a smaller soil moisture deficit has produced higher yields than 25-30 mm doses every 6-7 days,” said Dr Stalham.

Full demonstration and trials data will be presented at the Strategic Farm North results day on 23 January 2019. An in-depth report from the 18 September event can be found at potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/SPot-East-Diquat

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