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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

Local farmer sentenced for animal welfare offences

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ON JULY 10, Dylan Williams of Neuaddlwyd Uchaf, Neuaddlwyd, Ciliau Aeron appeared before magistrates at Aberystwyth Justice Centre and was sentenced for animal by-products and animal welfare offences.

Mr Williams, 47, had previously appeared at the Aberystwyth Magistrates Court where he entered pleas of guilty to the four offences brought before the court by Ceredigion County Council.

On 11 April 2018, 47 sheep carcasses in various states of decomposition were found on Mr Williams’ land, and these were accessible to live sheep and their young lambs. This formed the basis of the offence brought under The Animal By-Products Regulations which requires carcasses to be disposed of without undue delay, due to the risk to animal and public health.

The majority of the flock inspected on the day were seen with severe wool loss and irritated skin which are signs of sheep scab. Sheep scab is a debilitating condition which can lead to weight loss and thickened skin with scabs due to the intense, uncomfortable itching caused by the condition.

There were three separate offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, two of which were for causing unnecessary suffering to two ewes. One ewe was suffering from severe weakness due to scab infestation. Another ewe was found unconscious on the land with her intestines protruding from her flank, likely due to predation as she had also suffered from scab over a prolonged period.

Another offence related to Mr Williams’ failure to ensure the welfare needs of his flock were met by his failure to properly inspect the flock and to manage and treat the sheep scab effectively.

Magistrates sentenced Mr Williams to a community order with a requirement that he carried out 250 hours of unpaid work in the community, he was also ordered to pay the investigation and legal costs of the council which amounted to £1648.

Alun Williams, Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer with responsibility for Policy and Performance said, “The council is deeply saddened that yet another serious animal health offence has been committed within the county. It is to the credit of our staff that they have undertaken a successful prosecution of this case.

Our animal welfare officers and our legal team had no option but to carry the prosecution due to the seriousness of the offences committed. I would urge individual farmers who are facing difficulties in caring for their stock to seek advice from the County Council and the Farming Unions.”

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Farming

Aeron Valley farmers thinking creatively for their future

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A RESEARCH STUDY called Pweru’r Dyffryn delivered by Gweithgor Dyffryn Aeron cyf is looking into the feasibility of powering businesses and households in the Aeron Valley.

The study is looking into creating a community body to develop local renewable energy sources which would aim to create a source of income for powering the economy of mid Ceredigion. The study is also looking into creating a sustainable source of income to develop the local economy of the Aeron Valley.

The feasibility study is funded through Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. This is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

The concept of Pweru’r Dyffryn (Powering the Valley) was developed by the Gweithgor Dyffryn Aeron cyf. Many members of the Gweithgor are young farmers in the area. They want to not only secure a way of life and affordable energy, but also invest in their future.

The farmers of Dyffryn Aeron first set up the community cooperative company Gweithgor Dyffryn Aeron cyf in response to the closure of dairy factories in the valley. The Gweithgor helped a local company to re-open the site of one factory as a centre of local employment.

Through this they found that energy costs were high in the area and could threaten the long term sustainability of businesses in the area.

Euros Lewis is a Director of Gweithgor Dyffryn Aeron cyf and is Pweru’r Dyffryn’s Project Manager. He said: “Responding creatively is the way forward and that’s what these young farmers have done.”

From here the concept of Pweru’r Dyffryn was developed, which began with local consultations across the whole of the Aeron Valley. It asked local communities what form of renewable energy they did and didn’t want to see developed in the area and how would they want revenue from any potential scheme to be spent. The purpose of the consultations were to develop a model that will meet the needs and potential of the local communities first and foremost.

The feasibility scheme received LEADER support through the Cynnal y Cardi Local Action Group, which is administered by Ceredigion County Council.

The next step for Gweithgor Dyffryn Aeron cyf is the publication of a comprehensive report of the local consultation and its findings for future potential developments. The consultation’s early findings include that large scale wind turbines would not be welcome, while there is support for further research as to the potential of waterways and solar power for the generation of local, sustainable energy.

The development of the scheme will be long-term with challenges along the way but Euros Lewis believes to change the lives of the local people and to develop the local economy ‘that the basic principle is to act for ourselves and this is what we are doing.’

Councillor Rhodri Evans is Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for Economy and Regeneration. He said: “It’s very encouraging to see rural society in Ceredigion ambitiously looking to the future. Cynnal y Cardi supports them closely and I’m sure they wil see success in the future.”

All ideas are welcome on a rolling basis and project officers are at hand to assist you. The closing dates in 2019 for submission of expressions of interest are 9 September and 11 November. All submissions are welcome in Welsh or English.

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Farming faces zero carbon challenge

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AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.

Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.

Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.

According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.

“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.

“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.

“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.

“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.

“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

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