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Webinar shows benefits of digital decision support tools for potato growers

Digital decision support tools will play an increasingly important role for potato farmers, that was the message from an industry-focused webinar held recently, hosted by CHAP (Crop Health and Protection Ltd) in the UK. Speakers at the event showed how developing a robust resistance management strategy in potatoes depends on a willingness to plan, the use of alternative modes of action, and the adoption of future technologies.

Dr Faye Ritchie from ADAS opened discussions with an exploration of the subject of managing pesticide resistance in potato crops, including the best use of available chemistry in targeting late blight. Due to the evolution of resistant strains of the disease and the withdrawal of actives due to legislative changes, Dr Ritchie explained that this could eventually leave growers with only eight viable and available modes of action.

Dr Ritchie showed that alternating between these within the spray programme, or using approved tank mixes and co-formulated products, was the most effective approach to help manage resistance development. Other tactics, such as adjusting spray timings, were not as effective for resistance management.

Dr Ritchie said: “Potato growers are faced with two main challenges when it comes to overcoming late blight – fungicide availability and changes in the pathogen population. The two are linked. Developing a robust strategy for resistance management based on an integrated approach will also help to overcome the issue of fungicide availability – particularly pertinent given the status of mancozeb.

“The first steps should always be to take time to devise a plan ahead of the season, that includes non-chemical strategies such as controlling potential sources of the pathogen, for example outgrade piles. Of course, as we move into the future, we will have to become more reliant on other measures such as resistant cultivars and decision support tools.”

Dr Ritchie concluded by discussing the role of resistant cultivars in allowing greater spray programme flexibility and the potential to reduce dose rates.

To follow, CHAP Business Development Manager Chris Delf discussed the growing role of decision support systems in potato production. This included an introduction to CropMonitor Pro (CMP) – an independent pest and disease risk prediction platform developed by Fera for CHAP.

Based on a network of more than 30 monitoring sites, CMP analyses a host of yield-impacting data, including weather, crop growth stage, disease levels, insect counts and disease spore loads. This is then combined and translated into field-level risk alerts, supporting the farmer in making timely decisions to combat diseases such as potato late blight as well as aphid and slug pressure.

Chris said: “Attitudes are changing and farmers are looking to more sophisticated decision support tools such as CropMonitor Pro to support wider integrated crop management (IPM) goals. This is ideally demonstrated by Dr Ritchie’s presentation, using technology to help overcome on-farm problems such as resistance management. Knowing the level of risk and then applying the appropriate products accordingly means we really get the most from those products.

“Of course, this is also important from a financial perspective. Without mancozeb as a multi-site fungicide there will be cost implications for the blight spray programme. Farmers and agronomists will be looking for reassurance that their input investment will be worth it.”

To conclude the webinar, Mark Taplin of Harvest Agronomy Ltd discussed a practical view on decision support tools, from an on-farm perspective.

If you missed the webinar, you can now catch it on the CHAP YouTube page.

To learn more about how technology is revolutionising agriculture, read CHAP’s latest article for its “Focus on Data Diagnostics“: The Rise of the Digital Farm, by Keith Norman.

If you have any questions about working with CHAP, please send them an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of their homepage.

Source: CHAP. Original article here
Photo: Dreamstime.com

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