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Newmarket: OSR growers seek ways to cope with ban on neonicotinoids

PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 June 2014

CAT Technical Director Richard Fenwick reports on the winter wheat trials

CAT Technical Director Richard Fenwick reports on the winter wheat trials

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Farmers looking at ways of coping with a ban on seeds treated with neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide, were given advice on how to grow oilseed rape (OSR) next season at an agricultural event near Newmarket.

Dr Richard Jennaway, right, Technical Director of Saaten Union, at company's Rosalie field station where CAT trials take place, discussing new OSR varieties.Dr Richard Jennaway, right, Technical Director of Saaten Union, at company's Rosalie field station where CAT trials take place, discussing new OSR varieties.

Cambridge Arable Technologies (CAT) Open Day, which took place earlier this month, looked at strategies for coping with the removal of seed treatments for OSR as well as the most promising new wheat varieties and how to grow them in this area.

CAT, launched in 2005 to provide membership-based trials for East Anglian farmers, tests out crops at a site at Cowlinge, south of Newmarket.

Richard Jennaway, manager of the Rosalie field station at Cowlinge, said there were some interesting new OSR varieties but the main concern for growers is the ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments such as Cruiser.

“All of the OSR in the trials was treated with Cruiser and farmers are going to have to think very hard about crop establishment if they cannot use these products this autumn,” he said.

Dr Richard Jennaway, Technical Director of Saaten Union, at company's Rosalie field station where CAT trials take place, discussing new OSR varieties.Dr Richard Jennaway, Technical Director of Saaten Union, at company's Rosalie field station where CAT trials take place, discussing new OSR varieties.

“Oilseed rape is very vulnerable up to three to four weeks and the cabbage stem flea beetle is most active in September when the soil is warm. Therefore don’t drill too early and pay close attention to seedbed preparation. This does not mean going back to the plough but consider drilling depth carefully and aim to drill when rain is imminent.

“Growers will also need to spray three or four times during the autumn. Among the challenges are cabbage root fly, which we control at present but which could build up and become a greater problem. We will all need to be vigilant.”

Farmers at the annual event agreed fungicide treatment of wheat crops has paid off this season, as they inspected untreated trial plots of popular and upcoming varieties suffering from a range of common diseases.

In contrast, plots of the same varieties treated with a standard ‘on-farm’ spray regime were effectively ‘clean’, even when challenged with a virulent new race of brown rust that has taken hold in the untreated plots through mid June.

CAT technical director Richard Fenwick said: “KWS Trinity is looking attractive at this stage in the CAT trials but lacks the orange blossom midge resistance of Skyfall. This may not be a problem for many growers and it is possible to control this insect with sprays, but it is obviously best not to have to do so.”

In addition to its extensive variety trials programme, CAT is undertaking work designed to test the full potential of modern wheat. With a widespread suspicion among farmers that recommended nitrogen levels are not sufficient to maximize yields in the best modern varieties, including hybrids, CAT has developed a trials regime in which selected varieties receive between 0 and 400 kg N/ha, applied at three growth stages. CAT members will have access to the results after harvest.

Other crop nutrition work includes an examination of ‘little and often’ sulphur treatments and trials with recently introduced, commercial ‘nitrogen enhancing’ products. These products claim to boost soil fertility or to help the plant make better use of available nitrogen, such as by using organic ‘nitrogen fixing’ microbes.

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