17-04-2014 09:52 AM | News, Shows and Events

National research to deliver local solutions at Cereals 2014



The role of national and independent research in delivering local solutions will be the focus of HGCA’s crop management research plots at Cereals 2014.

The crop management areas will be staffed by technical experts from HGCA and the research community.

Areas will be clearly signposted, allowing visitors to locate the best experts to discuss the key agronomy issues facing their arable farming businesses.

This year, the HGCA research plots showcase research projects with a combined value over £10m, with around a quarter of this total provided by levy funds.

The research on show at Cereals 2014 has been designed to help answer the following questions:

How much do we really know about resistant black-grass?

The development of resistance to herbicides in black-grass is a major threat to cereal production in the UK.

Weed resistance experts will outline how pioneering work, co-funded by HGCA, hopes to crack the resistance code and develop essential new management solutions for problematic UK weeds.

This summer, as part of a black-grass resistance survey, the Rothamsted Research team needs to collect black-grass seed samples from around 150 farm locations.

Visitors at Cereals 2014 will be able to find out how to take part in this survey. Participants will receive a free analysis of the black-grass resistance status of their farm.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Paul Gosling

Can cover crops be used to help get black-grass under control?

Cover crops could provide growers with a useful cultural control option for black-grass and HGCA-funded trials are looking at the approach.

Visitors will be able to find out how the wider adoption of this cultural approach requires a better understanding of the agronomy and associated economic, as well as environmental, benefits of using cover crops in this way. Researchers will also discuss how ‘biofumigant’ chemicals released from cover crop residues are helping to suppress weed activity in pot trials.

A new HGCA publication, with solutions to the black-grass menace, will also be available to pick up from the stand.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Paul Gosling

How much of a threat is herbicide resistance in broad-leaved weeds?

Loss of herbicides under European pesticide legislation has led to very limited herbicide choice across arable rotations and many growers rely heavily on acetolactate synthase (ALS) products.

Worldwide, the ALS-inhibiting herbicide class has the greatest incidence of weed resistance. Resistance to ALS herbicides in broad-leaved weeds is common in other European countries, such as Italy and Spain, and has also been identified in the UK.

Resistance issues in black-grass have taught us that management systems are best put in place before resistance becomes a widespread problem. HGCA-funded research is looking to develop such systems for cereal/oilseed rape crop rotations by conducting trials on the common poppy.

Poppy has been selected as the ‘model crop’ in the study due to the significant problems it is already causing in Europe and because resistant populations have already been identified in the UK.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Paul Gosling

What’s the best way to control pests this autumn?

Visitors will be able to hear how HGCA is looking at the implications of the recent neonicotinoid insecticide restrictions and the new research solutions to help growers protect oilseed rape through its vulnerable early growth stages this autumn.

Rothamsted Research has been using suction traps to capture aphids for 50 years and experts will be on hand to discuss how the AHDB Aphid News monitoring service can be used to adapt spray plans, based on regional information on aphid activity and resistance status. The area will also look at resistance to pyrethroids in cabbage stem flea beetle and how much damage OSR seedlings can tolerate before a spray is required.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Caroline Nicholls

Which products perform best against diseases of oilseed rape, wheat and barley?

The fungicide performance plots in the wheat, barley and oilseed rape areas will provide a perfect backdrop for visitors to discuss how fungicide programmes have been holding up during a year with relatively high disease potential.

Leading experts involved in HGCA’s independent fungicide performance trials, conducted at a range of locations across the UK, will be on hand to discuss the activity of key products on the main diseases of wheat, barley and oilseed rape.

Information on dose-response, spray timings and growth regulatory effects will be available to take away to help growers optimise spray programmes.

The wheat fungicide performance plots also form part of Haymarket’s Cereals 2014 CPD trail. By visiting this part of the stand, BASIS-registered professionals will be able to collect one BASIS point.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Paul Gosling

Oilseed rape: are you on top of the spots?

For diseases in the UK, phoma and light leaf spot have the greatest potential to cause economic damage to oilseed rape. Experts will be on hand to discuss how we are working to help growers adapt management strategies to fit local conditions.

The plots will feature one of our weather stations (part of HGCA’s UK weather station network) and a spore trap to help explain how data collected from them is being used to refine disease forecasting tools. Researchers will also outline how selecting varieties with an appropriate mix of resistance genes for the local disease pressure could be the key for tackling phoma stem canker.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Jenna Watts

Micronutrients – when are they necessary?

Following the autumn 2013 launch of HGCA’s micronutrients publication, growers are now in a better position to assess the need for micronutrient applications in cereals and oilseed rape.

As our research shows that diagnosing micronutrient deficiencies isn’t easy to do, this area has been designed to help visitors spot visual symptoms in pot-grown dwarf sunflowers. Sunflowers have been selected because symptoms can be induced in them relatively easily.

Experts will be on hand to discuss how to use soil and tissue analyses to diagnose deficiencies and the best corrective measures for any deficiency identified – which may not include a fertiliser application.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: James Holmes

Is my nitrogen rate accurate?

There is increasing evidence that some farms may need more nitrogen (N) than recommended, whereas other farms may consistently need less N, so savings in N fertiliser use could be made.

This research area showcases nitrogen management research with a total value of around £5.5 million (HGCA funding around £1 million).

The area will provide the latest from the ‘Auto-N’ project which is looking to establish if precision technologies can react to variability across the field and apply the optimum N rate to discrete parts of the crop.

The area also features the ‘LearN’ project, which is testing a novel ‘strip trial’ approach on a diverse network of UK farms. The trials compare the farm’s standard N rate against 60kg/ha more and 60kg/ha less to help farmers determine whether, on average, their N use is about right, too much or too little

The area also covers work developing a range of genetic markers to track useful genes through breeding programmes and a project looking to better understand the release of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas, from arable soils.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: James Holmes

How much does organic matter really matter?

HGCA’s collaborative £2.6m National Soil Programme of research and development was launched at Cereals 2012 and the full programme was featured in the HGCA plots in 2013.

In 2014, the soil research plots will provide the opportunity to take a close look at soil biology and the wide range of organisms that live in soil and the role of organic matter.

Our giant wormeries, nurtured by Rothamsted Research, will be back to compare the activity of anecic and endogeic earthworms, which have very different burrowing behaviours. A soil pit will also feature to help reveal the effects of incorporating farmyard manure into the soil.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Shamal Mohammed

Can perennial field margins assist with pest control?

HGCA is driving forward innovative research to help maintain pest populations below economic damage thresholds and reduce the industry’s reliance on plant protection products.

As part of this drive, we are a partner in the ‘Ecostac’ project, looking at the potential of perennial field margins to offer pest management and further environmental solutions.

Co-funded by HDC, this work focuses on horticultural rotations (including a cereal break-crop) due to the considerable crop protection challenges faced by this sector.

The researchers will discuss how they are developing commercial perennial seed mixes that work in different climates and soils, to ensure farmers in a wide variety of geographical locations will be able to take full advantage of the research – which is showing potential to increase pest predators/parasitoid, as well as pollinators and farmland birds.

Representatives from the HGCA-supported The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (www.cfeonline.org.uk) will also be on the plots to discuss how a range of voluntary measures can be used to protect and enhance the environmental value of farmland.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Shamal Mohammed

How can malting barley growers minimise grain skinning risk?

Grain skinning in barley is a major quality issue affecting the malting process and can lead to rejections. Varieties can be rated as having a low, moderate or high susceptibility to grain skinning. However, reports from across several years suggest that new spring barley varieties are increasingly susceptible. There are also strong environmental influences, with skinning appearing to be more prevalent after extended grain-fill periods, particularly with prolonged wet weather (as in 2012) or intermittent wet and dry weather.

A concern from growers is that there is a lack of choice in robust malting barley varieties, including those with good resistance to skinning. This final area of our Cereals 2014 research plots will look at research that is improving understanding of grain skinning to help malting barley growers obtain market premiums.

HGCA Research and KT Manager: Dhan Bhandari

Updating research strategy

The HGCA research consultation was launched at the 2013 HGCA Agronomists’ Conference in December. Since that time, around 1,000 people have responded to our questionnaire.

HGCA is now analysing the results and there will be an interactive display in the corporate marquee at Cereals 2014 so visitors can help HGCA fine-tune certain key priority research areas.

The new HGCA research strategy will be published in January 2015.

HGCA Senior Research and KT Manager: Vicky Foster

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