Spornado is an early alert system for late blight and other crop diseases, for growers that want to optimize their fungicide use. Currently, most potato growers don’t know when late blight is in their field until they see it and it is often too late, says 20/20 Seed Labs. Inc in a press release. The company says there is often a lot of guesswork involved for growers in anticipating when disease may strike and when to spray.
Pests and Diseases
Following the first anniversary of the publication of the Farm to Fork Strategy by the European Commission, Europatat and twelve other association members of the Agri-Food Chain Roundtable on Plant Protection have co-signed an open letter on the importance of carrying out a comprehensive assessment before making any decisions about the reduction of pesticide use, including the target for 50% reduction of the use of chemicals.
With resistance to fluazinam now established in the blight populations in the UK and a continuing shift towards more aggressive P. infestans populations such as 36_A2 and 37_A2, a robust resistance management strategy is essential to safeguard crops. SRUC specialist in blight epidemiology Dr. Ruairidh Bain, believes that spray coverage is one of the key factors of the blight control programme that needs to be improved to protect potato crops.
In a blog post on Global Food for Thought, guest authors Chris Kennedy and Bob Easter examine how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa can promote global food security. It has to start with good seed, they write. Their seed has to have the genetic traits to not only produce more grain or fruit or tubers, but it also has to have the traits that make the plant resistant to the crops’ natural enemies and climate threats.
Multiple counties in Ireland have been issued with a potato blight warning as the changeable weather threatens crops. Ireland’s national meteorological service, Met Éireann, issued the environmental warning yesterday, Thursday 27 May. The environmental warning, which warns that “weather conditions conducive to the spread of potato blight”, is expected to affect early sown crops, the service announced.
Potato Virus Y is dealt with by a zero-tolerance policy at Albanwise Farming in North Yorkshire in the UK, where the specialist operation has 40ha of processing ware and 360ha of seed potatoes in the ground for 2021, consisting of 31 different varieties. “It has to be a belt and braces approach, but it doesn’t have to be all about insecticides. There are other ways to keep the guard up and we are making use of a whole range of techniques,” says Tom England, the company’s seed potato production manager.
Michael Tait, Syngenta Technical Manager and Harry Fordham, Syngenta New Farming Technologies Lead present the 2020 Syngenta trials at Eurofins in this video published on the SyngentaUK YouTube channel. Tait and Fordham report on blight fungicide activity and new application advice for the Syngenta 3D90 nozzle, delivering outstanding efficacy, along with 90% drift reduction.
Canada’s pesticide regulator said last week that farmers could keep using the chemical imidacloprid to control crop-destroying insects under stricter conditions, softening an earlier proposal to ban it. Farmers use imidacloprid to protect fruits and vegetables from aphids and beetles. The PMRA stated on May 19 that in-furrow application for root and tuber vegetables, including potatoes, was cancelled. This was due to the maximum application rate being reduced to 100 g a.i./ha. Potato foliar applications have been reduced to one per season.
AZterknot fungicide from Vive Crop Protection received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently. AZterknot fungicide is the world’s first three-way fungicide combination that harnesses the benefits of biologicals, the performance of chemistry and the ease of Allosperse. Allosperse is proprietary nano-polymer technology developed by Vive Crop Protection that allows previously incompatible products to be mixed and applied in one application, reducing fuel, time and water usage.
The Rhizoctonia threat: British potato growers advised on control measures after cold and dry spring
During April 2021 the UK experienced cold and dry conditions which haven’t been seen in some years. Moving into May, much of the country has received – or is about to receive – some much needed rain, together with an increase in temperatures. Earlier-planted crops may now be ready to crack above the soil surface. Rhizoctonia solani will be a threat to watch out for especially early in the season.
A new report indicates the pyrethroid sensitivity of two important aphid virus vectors. Sue Cowgill, AHDB Crop Protection Senior Scientist (Pests) in the UK looks at what the results mean for potato growers. Sue writes that these days, growers have access to fewer modes of action to control insect pests. Concerns that this encourages the emergence of resistance are recognised in the Draft National Action Plan for the sustainable use of pesticides. While this may eventually deliver a comprehensive strategy for insecticide resistance management; in the short term, we have to use the information and insecticides that are available now.
Canadian potato growers and scouts can now find three online scouting resources that will help them know when and what to scout for in potato fields throughout this season. On May 21 and 28, 2020, Potatoes in Canada magazine hosted a webinar series with Dr. Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board, on how to scout pests, diseases and physiological disorders in potatoes. In addition to the webinar series, Dr. Banks has made her scouting resources available as PDFs for download.
AHDB’s Fight Against Blight programme started in 2004 and since then ‘blight scouts’ have sent in over 10,000 samples of potentially blight infested potato plants for genotyping. Each year the results are published because knowing the location of outbreaks and the dominant genotypes, allows for better prevention of the disease. This has been particularly valuable when genotypes behave differently to the norm, for example if they are insensitive to a certain treatment, or if they aggressively reproduce more quickly than typical spray cycles.
Dr. Michele Konschuh, a research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge in Canada’s Alberta province, is leading a study to help ensure Alberta’s potato industry stays healthy. Blackleg is caused by Pectobacterium and Dickeya bacteria. Of the two, Dickeya is especially aggressive. “The one we have in Alberta is caused by Pectobacterium species. At this time, we have no Dickeya and we want to keep it that way,” says Konschuh.
BlightSpy is a tool for British growers and agronomists that can be used in their fight against late blight – it offers an eight-day blight forecast and more detail than its predecessor Blightwatch. Anne Stone, AHDB Knowledge Transfer Manager, Potatoes reports that the new tool allows users to monitor weather forecasts for the predicted occurrence of Hutton Criteria at over 669 carefully selected location points in Britain.
Plant scientists at the James Hutton Institute are studying the evolution of late blight in potato by working with industry and research partners to track the distribution and diversity of dominant clones in Europe in 2020, and have also contributed to a review into the development of the disease in Asia in the last 150 years, as part of global efforts to improve the sustainable production of healthy potato crops.
Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today announced its first commercial robot, ‘Tom’. SRC’s first service using Tom will be per plant weeding, a world-first milestone. This is now in field trials, with Tom scanning first arable crops to detect weeds, and robot weeding prototype ‘Dick’ then zapping individual weeds with electrical ‘lightning strikes’, using no chemicals.
“Biologicals are tools for the sustainable agriculture of the future… Biologicals are a class of agricultural products that include biopesticides, biofertilizers, and biostimulants that are derived from natural materials, such as animals, plants, bacteria, or minerals,” writes Claude Flueckiger in this article published by AgoPages.
New PCN resilient varieties are now available thanks to advancements in potato breeding technologies writes Teagasc’s Denis Griffin and Dan Milbourne and Colm McDonnell of IPM Potato Group Ltd. Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are increasingly problematic where potatoes are intensively grown. Until recently, very few potato varieties have been available for commercial production with resistance to both species of the pest.
With aphid migrations predicted to start imminently in the South of England and two to three weeks later in Scotland, potato growers must adopt a range of integrated pest management measures to minimise the yield and quality-robbing effects of the viruses that these airborne insects transmit, writes Ken Fletcher, editor at The Scottish Farmer, in this article.
Seed potato producers are leaving no stone unturned to slow the proliferation of virus in British stocks, with straw mulches and mineral oils set to compliment systemic insecticides as part of a robust integrated pest management (IPM) strategy this year, write Rob Jones and Lucy de la Pasture in this in-depth article, published by crop production magazine (CPM).
Agronomy expert: ‘Doing nothing is not an option – whole systems approach needed to reduce potato virus’
Writes Eric Anderson, Senior Agronomist at Scottish Agronomy: “We have sprayed ourselves into resistance, and we need to be bolder in adopting natural measures into pest management if we’re to secure the health and quality of seed potatoes in Great Britain. The prevalence of virus in seed stocks is challenging the industry and we are at a tipping point. It’s clear that insecticides are not doing the job on their own anymore and that we need to do something differently.”
As the potato season edges closer, growers will be pondering herbicide programmes and asking which strategy is likely to deliver the greatest bang for their buck. Ken Fletcher, Editor of The Scottish Farmer writes that the first decision confronting growers will be whether to use metribuzin, or not? With it, weed control is almost always easier and less expensive, but the long list of varieties sensitive to this substance means many growers have to consider the alternatives.
A recently published article by academic experts Marc Ghislain, Rick Goodman and Alex Barekye describes the development of an African potato variety – transformed with three resistance genes from wild potato relatives – that provides resistance to late blight disease. The article was published by OpenAccessGovernment.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers are encouraging farmers to buck the trend and use buckwheat as a triple threat crop. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fast growing crop is proving to be beneficial in suppressing pests such as wireworms in potatoes, and preventing soil diseases.
2Blades Foundation: Collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa
Evanston, Illinois based 2Blades Foundation reports in its latest e-mail newsletter on the Foundation’s support for the International Potato Center’s African potato initiative. The Foundation make note in the newsletter that Chris Kennedy, Chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc. and Bob Easter, President Emeritus of the University of Illinois, co-wrote a blog on how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa is helping to build global food security.
A team effort led to Alberta being declared Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) free – improving trade prospects for potato producers, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the province, Devin Dreeshen. He says: “Potatoes are a billion-dollar industry in Alberta. This announcement will help us re-claim market access and will lead to fewer restrictions as we pursue new markets.”
This past winter, two well known potato pathologists stated that the incidence of Dickeya dianthicola is declining in the U.S., writes Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist at the Ontario Potato Board, in a recent article. Dr. Banks is of the opinion that additional novel and potentially high virulent soft rot species probably remain to be discovered, and this high level of diversity will hinder the development of tolerant potato varieties. “This is not good news!,” Dr. Banks says.