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Farming

Blight trials a success

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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

No one size solution for farm exports

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Food exports: Market messages need to be tailored

BRITISH food exporters need to gain an understanding of consumer needs in different countries if the UK’s farmers are to fully reap the rewards of overseas trade, according to AHDB.

In its latest edition of the Horizon Brexit series, AHDB argues that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to unlocking export opportunities should be avoided and that we cannot rely on ‘Brand Britain’ alone to boost sales.

The report, focuses on international buying behaviours and looks at exporting from a consumer perspective. It highlights the need for industry to monitor and adapt to the needs of each marketplace to create more opportunities.

The study included responses from more than 4,500 consumers in nine countries – from key UK export markets in North America, Europe, Gulf States and Asia – around what motivates and drives them to choose the food they buy.

Among the key findings was that, while seven out of the nine countries surveyed said ‘quality’ was the most important factor, both China and Japan stated ‘food safety’ as critical in their food choices.

Christine Watts, AHDB chief communication and market development officer, said: “Concerns and priorities vary by market and many could benefit from tailored messaging to appeal to these different interests.

“For instance, in China and Japan food safety is critical. Communication to these markets needs to be tailored to meet the desires of consumers so they know more about the safety of the food they eat.”

The report also closely considers the impact of ‘British’ branding overseas and looks at some of the opportunities and challenges this holds in a post-Brexit world.

Steven Evans, AHDB consumer insight manager and author of the report, said: “The research looked to capture the reaction to ‘Brand Britain’ and understand objectively how other countries see us. We found that many consumers have not had direct exposure to British food products and, therefore, have not had the opportunity to build a firm view of their qualities.

“This highlights that exposure to products and clear branding is necessary to drive awareness and build brand reputation.”

Other key aspects from the report include how different sectors also have different drivers in buying behaviour. For example, while quality was important for both meat and dairy, price featured second in the list for meat while freshness was the second highest purchase motivator in the dairy industry.

Also, promoting the same meat cuts across all countries would not be beneficial for British exporters as lifestyles, tastes and food choices differ around the world.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Often, what we as a British consumer perceive as a good product message will not be relevant for all export markets.

“For example, the Chinese Sunday roast is not commonplace but Dong Po Rou (braised pork belly) is. Both hold a similar association as they both use larger joints but each fit very different meal occasions.

“We also know that a Chinese consumer is comfortable to view the whole journey from farm to fork. But it would be dangerous to assume that the same approach across all export markets will result in the same sales performance.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow for customisation and adapting to meet specific domestic demands. It is critical that British food producers don’t make assumptions that their product has the same relevance across all markets.”

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Farming

Rural areas vital for economies

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Areas of growth, opportunity, and inspiration: OECD report claims

RURAL areas are vital to national economies and addressing global challenges, according to the policy statement released at the 11th OECD Rural Development Conference held in Edinburgh.

The policy statement, which provides guidance to governments to support rural economic development, also declared that innovation will be critical to the future competitiveness and sustainability of rural economies. It also outlines the case for focusing on rural areas as engines of national prosperity and how policies should leverage this opportunity.

Jose Enrique Garcilazo, Head of OECD’s Regional and Rural Policy Unit, said: “Rural regions are not synonymous with decline or agricultural specialisation, but places of growth, opportunity and inspiration, yet rural is still not central to government policy. Rural areas have a key part to play in some of our major global challenges. They are best placed to develop new energy sources, to help sustain our natural environment and to ensure food security.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, opportunities are emerging to promote rural prosperity. Digitalisation will propel rural economies forward, and the conference has highlighted that supporting innovation in rural areas will be key to the future prosperity and wellbeing of rural regions.”

The policy statement identifies 10 key drivers of change predicted to influence the future of rural economies and communities and their potential to prosper, including additive manufacturing (for example 3D printing); decentralised energy systems; digital connectivity; the future of health; shifting values and preferences; drones; and driverless cars.

The statement also recommends that, in addition to prioritising rural innovation, a robust rural policy should place social, environmental and economic wellbeing at the forefront of policy decisions and take an integrated view across policy sectors to avoid one policy detracting from another.

The 2018 Conference, Enhancing Rural Innovation, was hosted by the Scottish Government and co-hosted by the European Commission and the UK, to provide a forum for key policy officials and academics from OECD member countries to engage and share ideas and experiences on rural policy.

It is the eleventh in the OECD Rural Conference Series, which has been held all over the world since its inception in 2002.

Prior to the main conference, a series of interactive sessions, led by the European Network for Rural Development, showcased exemplary projects and approaches already launched by rural communities to embrace 21st century challenges and opportunities.

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Farming

Rural Wales in ‘the 4G Wilderness’

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#4GforAll: CLA Wales highlights digital divide

NEW DATA gathered by the CLA has shown what rural communities have suspected for a long time; that the mobile industry is willing to abandon rural areas to the digital wilderness.

Director Rebecca Williams says: “Our information has revealed that too few planning applications have been made for mobile phone masts in our rural counties to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural community.

“Latest research has shown that a county such as Powys – which has appallingly poor mobile connectivity at less than 3 per cent – has seen just 13 mast sites applied for in the past 12 months, yet urban counties such as Cardiff have seen as many as 62 applications. Even a rural county, such as Monmouthshire, close to the urban centres of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff, has seen just two mast applications.

“With 5G on the horizon in 2022, progress needs to be better – and Wales must not be left in the boondocks. The rural community must not be excluded. Farms and rural businesses lack the digital service they need to be competitive. We must remember that this is not about resident population numbers, since mobile communication should be available to everyone everywhere.”

In February, the CLA asked Ofcom to force reluctant mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally binding coverage target on their operating licenses. It called for EE, O2, Vodafone and Three to be required to deliver 4G coverage to at least 95% of the UK geographic landmass on all networks by 2022.

Rebecca Williams continues: “Three years ago, we were told that coverage would be delivered in the countryside and yet rural communities are still waiting. In the same period the mobile industry has extracted concession after concession from UK Government Ministers. They have got the new legal powers they wanted, on the basis that they are a utility service.

“Now they must be forced to deliver the universal service that a utility operator provides. We expect government and the regulator to take a tough line on this, and if Ofcom won’t then Ministers must step in.”

The CLA has highlighted Ofcom’s failure to push mobile network operators to achieve universal coverage for consumers. It is calling on the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to review Ofcom’s statutory remit and confirm that the body should prioritise working towards universal, quality mobile coverage for consumers.

“The mobile operators have no market incentive to improve coverage in these rural areas. It is absolutely clear that the only way they will deliver the coverage the countryside needs is if they are forced to do so. However rather than pushing them to achieve universal coverage for consumers, Ofcom is setting soft targets for rural coverage. As a result rural consumers face inadequate service and lack of network choice for years to come.”

Further information can be found at www.cla.org.uk/4gForAll and Ofcom’s 700Mhz spectrum auction proposal.

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