Wheat production was under the spotlight at the British Crop Production Council’s 2009 Congress, held in the Scottish city of Glasgow, thanks to presentations from ENDURE’s Lise Nistrup Jørgensen and Neal Evans.
The event brought together more than 70 speakers, including researchers, policy makers, and farmers’ representatives, with the focus on food security and the role science and technology can play in providing long-term food supply and sustainability.
Lise and Neal participated in a session devoted to Integrated Pest Management, with Neal taking the opportunity to introduce the ENDURE Network of Excellence to delegates.
Neal, from the UK’s Rothamsted Research, then explored ENDURE’s arable system case study, focusing on the winter crops-based strand which is seeking to manipulate crop rotations to minimise chemical inputs while maximising outputs.
Examining arable crops in the UK, Neal explained that the most common current rotation is winter wheat followed by winter wheat and then winter oilseed rape. This rotation currently produces a mean annual treatment frequency index (TFI) of 6.2. (TFI is a measure of pesticide use and is calculated using the number of times a pesticide is applied in its standard (normal) dose in a growing season. For example, an application of a pesticide with half the standard dose will give a TFI of 0.5. The same score could also be achieved using two applications with 25% of the standard dose.)
Neal’s team is looking at designing both alternative strategies, which use technologies that have been developed but are not yet widely implemented and could be used within five to 10 years, and innovative strategies, using new technologies that are currently being developed and which could be in place within 10 to 15 years.
The main priorities include containing black grass (Alopecurus myosuroides ), the most important grass weed affecting cereal crops in the UK and capable of rapid spread thanks to the high amount of seed it produces, disease control in winter oilseed rape and more intelligent use of pesticides.
A range of tools are available to help design these new systems, including changes to the crop sequence to include spring crops and a wider range of crops to contain grass weeds, lengthening rotations to leave more years between oilseed rape, and ensuring pesticides are used strictly according to need through the use of economic thresholds and decision support systems.
Neal revealed that introducing new rotations, such as winter wheat followed by spring beans, winter wheat and winter oilseed rape on heavier soils, could reduce TFIs by an estimated 39%.
Lise, from Denmark’s Aarhus University, led ENDURE’s wheat case study and presented EuroWheat, a new website which explores ways to tackle disease epidemics that affect both the yield and quality of wheat crops.
The site is designed to be useful for agricultural advisers, plant breeders and the scientific community across the European Union, which is the largest producer of wheat in the world, accounting for almost 125 million tonnes of the worldwide harvest of 725 million tonnes in 2007, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation.
EuroWheat brings together information on disease management and supports disease control strategies based on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It includes sections dedicated to fungicides, decision support, pathogens, cultivars and yields, and general information on disease management. It has been developed using a method that makes it possible for selected pages and tools to be integrated into national information systems and in local languages, thus overcoming barriers for disseminations to end-users.
The importance of delivering practical research-based advice to farmers to increase food production while preserving resources such as land and water was emphasised by Colin Ruscoe, British Crop Production Council (BCPC) chairman, in his closing address.
“Farmers need advisory support and incentives, not regulatory ‘sticks’, if they are to meet the challenge of further integrating chemical with non-chemical pest, weed and disease control practices without incurring cost and yield penalties,’ he said.
For more information
You can download the ENDURE presentations from the BCPC Congress below:
For more information about the event visit the BCPC 2009 Congress website.
Alternatively, the website of co-organiser Farmers Guardian has a range of news stories and video interviews from the event.
To visit the EuroWheat site, click here.
If you found this article useful, you may find the following publications of interest:
For more information about EuroWheat, you can also contact ENDURE.