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Navigating blight challenges: Insights from Europe to guide UK potato crop protection

2023 marked a challenging year for potato blight across Europe, with UK farmers now looking to their continental counterparts for effective disease management strategies. The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark each faced unique circumstances, providing valuable lessons on combating this persistent threat, as Richard Allison explains in a Farmers Weekly article titled “Potato blight: What UK farmers can learn from Europe“.

In the Netherlands, a catastrophic blight season unfolded due to a perfect storm of wet weather and the emergence of fungicide-resistant strains. Conversely, Denmark showcased a more successful approach, achieving notable control over the disease. Danish farmers experienced a decline in the prevalence of resistant strains, thanks to stringent fungicide application guidelines that limit the use of certain chemicals to just one spray per season. This method significantly reduced the incidence of EU_43 strain blight from 62% in 2022 to just 20% in 2023.

Albert Schirring, Bayer’s strategy lead for vegetable crops, suggests that UK farmers adopt the Danish model. According to Schirring, this approach not only curtails the spread of resistant strains but also maintains the efficacy of fungicides throughout the growing season.

The Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) has updated its guidelines in response to these findings, urging farmers to avoid consecutive fungicide applications and limit their use to prevent resistance buildup. Specific advice includes diversifying fungicide modes of action and ensuring mix partners are robust enough to handle the disease independently.

Dr. Juergen Derpmann, a blight specialist at Bayer, emphasizes the risk of dual resistance, noting that inappropriate fungicide mixes can select for strains resistant to multiple chemical groups. This scenario played out dramatically in the Netherlands, where double mutations in blight strains led to a loss of control over the disease.

As UK farmers prepare for the 2024 growing season, adopting these revised practices could be crucial in preventing a similar crisis. The focus remains on proactive resistance management and adapting strategies based on European experiences to ensure the continued effectiveness of blight control measures in the UK.

Source: Farmers Weekly. Read the original article here
Photo: Credit Utah State University

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