Thursday, 27 April 2017

Planting at new SPot West, Heal Farms 2017

Read the first blog of the 2017 season by Knowledge Exchange Manager and SPot West lead, Anne Stone:

Heal Farms in Shropshire grow 500ha per year of a range of processing varieties. 
Lodge 1 Field, on the A53 near Shrewsbury is infested with PCN and the Farms Director, Matthew Wallace, chose the crisping variety Arsenal because it is resistant to Globodera pallida, as well as to G.rostochiensis.  

Arsenal has limited tolerance to PCN, so Nemathorin has been applied with the aim of maintaining yields while varietal resistance prevents reproduction of the pest and reduces eggs left in the soil at the end of the season.

Lots of PCN – Jolly good!

A few billion potato cyst nematodes are not normally seen as a desirable soil constituent. To test and demonstrate methods of control such a feature is ideal, especially if they are uniformly distributed, so this field has become a magnet for trials. It gives a chance to compare varieties, for both their resistance and tolerance. The site will also be used to demonstrate other methods of PCN control.

The 60 acre field was prepared and planted in three days with the following stages:
  • ·   ·     Ploughing,
  • ·         Shakerator cultivation
  • ·         Bedtilling/bedforming
  • ·         De-stoning,
  • ·         Planting (with application of fertiliser and Amistar)
            Bedtiller/bedformer at Lodge 1, with Nemathorin applicator

     Planter in Lodge 1. CERC staff helped themselves to 
   some seed to plant bed ends tidily around the trial plots.
   Two of the de-stoners working in Lodge 1 on April 22nd.

A fair spread of machinery was displayed on Saturday 22nd April., Two Shakerators, one bedtiller/bedformers, five de-stoners and two planters all majestically maneuvered in a performance orchestrated by Mr Wallace.

From a distance the staff of CERC (trials arm of Harper Adams University) looked like crazed ants, scattering in all directions. Close up they could be seen running with white flexicanes and long tape measures, making 3:4:5 triangles to work out where the beds would fall, ahead of the advancing machinery. Marking out of potato experiments is usually done after the beds are in place, giving nice parallel lines. 

There was no such luxury in this case, because Nemathorin was being applied with the bedformer. The difference in a variety yield between treated and untreated with nematicide provides a measure of varietal tolerance, so Nemathorin had to be kept off the trial sites, enabling it to be applied precisely on a plot basis within the trials.

The CERC team needed to match the trials to areas in the field known to have suitable PCN counts. They measured where the beds would run, and where tram lines would be in place, meanwhile comparing with maps of PCN test results, in order to mark out before the bed former arrived. 

Pythagoras proved reliable and soon plots were marked and planting underway.

   Gary Weston, CERC mechanic, leaves his 
   machinery to help hand plant PCN control demonstrations

Life and death struggle
Read this blog to follow the fortunes of the crops in Lodge 1. Each variety has its own fight between the ravenous hunger of myriad nematodes and the defence strategies of a well bred potato.