Scotland and New Zealand compete for record yields in arable crops but also share some of the challenges. Climates that are conducive to high yields are also conducive for high levels of disease and we also share fungicide resistance challenges and an increasing drive to pick up more integrated practices and reduce reliance on pesticides. Scotland’s Plant Health Centre of Expertise is working on best practices for sustainable plant health and in this live stream session the Centre’s Director, Professor Ian Toth of the James Hutton Institute and Professor Fiona Burnett of SRUC, Sector Lead for Agriculture, will lead a discussion session with Jo Drummond of New Zealand’s Foundation for Arable Research and address questions from the online audience. David Ellerton, as a lead agronomist with Hutchinsons, will be part of the panel discussion to bring the practical challenges to growers and agronomists to the fore.
One of the key crop protection changes in 2020 has been the loss of chlorothalonil which has been a key active in arable crops. New Zealand growers did not have chlorothalonil as a tool and have a much better experience of managing without it. In wheat crops, this has meant greater reliance on azole and SDHI chemistry and with it increasing concern about resistance matters. In the UK this year we could increase doses or move to more effective chemistry to compensate for its loss, and to the use of alternative multisites such as folpet and mancozeb. But although the inclusion of these alternative multisites which carry a low risk of resistance can help reduce pressure on azole and SDHI chemistry we are still heavily reliant on those two groups of chemistry and the chance to diversify into new chemistry is welcome. New Zealand have had the new QiI fungicide Inatreq this season and used it to good effect to manage disease and allow mixing and alternating with other chemistry.
New Zealand growers are used to producing a wide range of crops and their place in lengthening arable rotations and improving soil health is another feature in their move to more sustainable production. Oilseed rape has been the break crop of choice in arable rotations in Scotland but in short rotations, disease problems such as light leaf spot and clubroot are more common. Legumes, energy crops and high-value cash crops add diversity to rotations but can carry their own plant health challenges and usually have a much narrower range of approved pesticides to work with.
This question and answer session will give the chance to enter questions to the panel and to vote up popular questions from other attendees who are on-line. How feasible is it that we reduce inputs and introduce diversity in our rotations? Professor Burnett thinks this will be one of the most challenging of the live sessions. "This is International Year of Plant Health, planned before COVID-19 marked 2020 in ways we could never have imagined. Taking up more sustainable crop protection strategies is a challenge to be layered on top of the market and legislative changes attached to Brexit, and the climate and biodiversity crises. It is so evident we have to be smarter about our use of pesticides but conversations like this drawing on global experience and sharing our thinking are key in finding the innovations that will really help Scottish crops," she says.