In a recent development, a new feasibility study, backed by Defra and Innovate UK, is delving into the potential of enhancing the effectiveness of trap cropping to assist farmers in combating the challenges posed by potato cyst nematode (PCN).
The study is centered around DeCyst™ solanaceous trap crops, which are known to prompt PCN to hatch at varying stages in the rotation, distinct from when potatoes are sown. This mechanism obstructs mature female PCN from finishing their lifecycle, subsequently diminishing their detrimental effects on potato yields.
The research will primarily evaluate the efficacy of three solanaceous trap crops, namely solanum sysimbriifolium (DeCyst-Prickly), solanum scabrum (DeCyst-Broadleaf), and solanum chenopodioides (DeCyst-Podium). The objective is to pinpoint the most optimal species and establish agronomic guidelines to ensure effective suppression of PCN.
Several esteemed institutions and organizations, including Produce Solutions, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), Harper Adams University, and VCS Potatoes, are collaborating on this project. Additionally, the initiative has garnered support from five prominent potato growers.
Dr. Matthew Back from Harper Adams University remarked, “PCN is the most prevalent potato pest in the UK. Infestation can mean yield losses of up to of 80%, and is estimated to cost the GB potato industry a huge £25.9 million each year. As crop protection chemistry such as nematicides are revoked, and control measures limited, growers have to investigate alternative methods such as trap crops, to ensure a viable future for potatoes within their rotations.”
When cultivated under optimal conditions, S.sisymbriifolium (DeCyst-Prickly) has demonstrated the capability to curtail PCN populations by over 75%. However, irregular establishment has been a hurdle in its widespread adoption. The hope is that by gaining insights into the best agronomic practices, trap crops will become a more attractive option for farmers.
James Lee from Produce Solutions emphasized, “We need all the tools available to us to control PCN, particularly if we lose a further nematicide option, and adoption of solanaceous trap crops could mean an increase in resilience and maintain productivity for the UK potato industry. An additional benefit is because they are chopped and incorporated into the soil, they add organic matter and increase carbon storage. This is especially important given the move to more regenerative farming systems and emerging carbon markets.”
Dr. Alex McCormack, the Innovation Technical Lead at CHAP, expressed his enthusiasm about supporting the consortium and highlighted the significance of the new farmer-centric grants from Defra in propelling on-farm R&D for the future.
Source: CHAP. Original article here
Photo: Solanum sisymbriifolium. Credit CHAP