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Farming

Blight trials a success

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Tackling resistance: Fungicide tests yield positive results

A SURGE in late blight pressure on the independent Eurofins trials site in Derbyshire has developed into one of the best tests of potato blight fungicides for many years.

One trial, designed to mirror the Euroblight categorisation under UK conditions and native blight strains, has underlined the importance of the rating, along with some interesting developments during 2017, reported Syngenta Potato Field Technical Manager, Douglas Dyas.

This year one trial protocol tested 13 different fungicides with single product use at weekly application right through the season; infector rows between plots were inoculated with strains of blight and managed to induce high blight pressure across the site.

“Although in practice all growers and agronomists would select and alternate different blight products in a programme through the season, the trial is a genuine test of any fungicide active’s true capability, and how it performs under UK conditions with evolving blight strains,” advocated Douglas.

He pointed out that this season has really pulled out some of the significant effects caused by different strains of the potato blight pathogen, and the challenges that created for agronomists and growers.

“There had been increasing concerns over the continued effectiveness of fluazinam under the pressure of the specific blight strain, Dark Green EU-37,” he recalled.

“Through the main part of the season the continued use of straight Shirlan had looked extremely good, then through the end of August it collapsed; possibly indicating that Dark Green EU-37 had come into the crop via natural infection.

“Fluazinam remains an extremely important tool for its zoospore activity to prevent tuber blight infection, so this trial has fully supported the advice intended to minimise the risk of the resistant strain building up. That has included to always alternate applications with another active; to mix a partner product such as mancozeb and/or cymoxanil; to maintain robust rates and to limit the overall use of fluazinam.”

The independently assessed trial had also shown some other fluazinam mixtures such as fluazinam + dimethomorph and fluazinam + cymoxanil, along with dimethomorph + amectoctradin, to be losing efficacy as the season progressed.

Douglas highlighted another set of replicated trial plots, where Fubol Gold (mancozeb + metalaxyl-M) had remained almost completely free of blight through to the end of the August assessments. Although the adjacent infector rows were inoculated with the Blue 13 A2 blight strain – which had historically shown resistance to phenylamide bight fungicides – the treatment had very effectively stopped foliar blight developing.

“The highly systemic nature of Fubol Gold does have some real value for use in the rapid canopy phase of crop growth. Agronomists visiting the trials indicated they see it may have a potential role at that timing, albeit for limited use and possibly in mixtures to counter risk of Blue 13 resistance issues,” he added.

The trials had also reinforced how mandipropamid products had remained at the top of the Euroblight table over many years, and continued to perform exceptionally well in the Eurofins UK equivalent.

“Revus was still the top performing straight active in the trials,” reported Douglas. “At the end of August, when severity of blight infection had reached over 90% in untreated plots, the independently assessed Revus plots showed just 0.01% blight severity.

“Furthermore, although the trial was not looking at Alternaria, we included Amphore Plus (mandipropamid + difenoconazole) in the protocol to assure its comparative late blight performance. In fact, it proved even better – with no visible blight recorded in the end of August assessment.”

He attributed that could be due to the formulation of the co-product mixture that had further enhanced the blight control, rather than the difenoconazole acting on the late blight strains.

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Farming

Last Golden Eagle of Wales found dead

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WALES will no longer see the golden eagle fly through the skies after the last of its kind was found dead by a walker in Abergwesyn Valley, near Llanwrtyd Wells.

The Golden Eagle was native to Wales, Europe and North America and due to human persecution had begun to die out, the last breeding pair being found in Snowdonia in 1850. It is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, but unfortunately Wales will not see the bird in action for a very long time.

The female bird of prey was being watched and followed by the presenter of Spring Watch, Iolo Williams, and will appear in the last episode of the latest show ‘Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales.’

The company behind the television show which captures the highlights of Welsh wildlife, Aden Productions, commented on the extinction of the Golden Eagle. Taking to twitter, a statement read:
“Our whole crew was shocked and saddened to hear about the demise of our beloved Cambrians golden eagle, the last golden eagle to fly wild in Wales. We hope our final episode of Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales is a fitting tribute to her.”

It is still not known how the female bird died, leaving questions for bird lovers, but plans are being made by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales project to reintroduce the bird of prey back into Welsh wildlife is under way. However, it is explained that this is not a simple process. They will firstly need Natural Resource Wales to issue a license which does take time.

The Golden Eagle has not left the UK completely and can still be found in the far North of Scotland.

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Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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Farming

New Flock and Herd Health Officers

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has appointed two new Flock and Herd Health Officers to its ambitious five-year Red Meat Development Programme, designed to equip Wales’s lamb and beef industry for a changing future.

The posts are key to delivering the programme’s commitment to helping farmers achieve on-farm efficiency and drive best practice in proactive animal health planning.

The programme is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Lowri Reed hails from a farming background near Llanon in central Ceredigion, whereas Lowri Williams is from Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth, and is a graduate in Animal Management and Welfare from Harper Adams University.

Dr Rebekah Stuart, the coordinator of the Flock and Herd Health Project at HCC, said: “We’re delighted to have recruited two officers with experience and knowledge of agriculture and flock management to this important strand of work.

“There are few things that can have as great an impact on the efficiency and bottom line of a livestock enterprise as a proactive and coordinated approach to animal health and eradicating disease.

“The project will help farmers to work with vets to put health plans in place and monitor their effectiveness. Since opening an initial expression of interest window late last year at the Winter Fair, we’re encouraged by how many farmers are keen to be involved. We look forward to working with them to put this exciting project into action.”

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