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Top agronomists consider the future of aphid and virus protection

Publication Date: 
3 December 2018

AHDB has recently expanded it’s successful ‘gap analysis’ work for Horticultural growers, following the loss of a series of widely used crop protection products, to examine the situation for Potatoes and Cereals growers.

“The purpose of the Gap analysis is to provide a comprehensive review of priorities for crop protection research for the short and medium term. We are tracking actives and renewals in Europe and the UK using a risk register” said Joe Martin Crop Protection Senior Scientist at AHDB.

“We have based the ‘risk’ to each on the next renewal date, and presence of factors that have led to the non-renewal of other products” he continued “work completed for the Horticulture sector has already provided useful information for potato growers, on dealing with pests like the peach-potato aphid.”

A theme from Joe, as well a specialist potato agronomists John Sarup and Andy Steven, who joined him at a recent aphid and virus seminar at AHDB’s Seed Industry Event, was that crop protection strategies will be changing rapidly over the coming years.

New solutions such as the development of Biopesticides are expected to positively impact commercial production, while changes such as the development of resistance as well as the threat of new pests/diseases results are likely to lead to the breakdown of crop protection strategies.

AHDB has funded the SceptrePlus programme to deliver applied research on high priority disease, pest and weed problems in fresh produce and ornamental crops in order to support approval of products and devise and develop IPM programmes.

The view from the field

Turning specifically to Seed Production, John Sarup of SPUD Agronomy and Andy Steven of Agrovista considered the challenges facing seed production both north and south of the border.

“General best practice is important” said John “choosing sites away from ware production, volunteer control, spray timings and hygiene.”

“It will continue to be important with continued loss of actives, resistance and climate change.”

Both agronomists considered the monitoring services, including trap information, part funded and communicated by AHDB, from SASA, Fera and Rothamsted valuable – but saw opportunities for future improvements.

“Yellow water traps have been in use for nearly 20 years – its good field based info but do we start trapping early enough? Also the data is 7-10 old when published” said Andy.

“Maybe in the future there will be webcams focused on sticky tape insect traps, so we can see what is coming into the crop as it happens,” he suggested. 

It would be useful to predict when aphids might fly, based on weather conditions and time of year, however this has proved difficult in the past, and with our climate changing old data may lose meaning.

Growers may be able to make their own predictions based on farming factors – such as proximity to crops such as oil seed rape. We know that after rape burn-off aphids will leave that environment and look for a new host, with potatoes being an obvious option.

Bespoke spraying programmes for seed crops may be needed, rather than falling in with blight spray timings.

“To maintain crop quality most growers like to do ‘something’ to keep on top of the pests. However, applying pyrethroids to resistant aphids is a complete waste of time and money, perhaps the use of oils with or between blight spray applications, may have potential, but in Britain oils have labels with a cut-off date of tuber initiation,” said John.

“We need to know more about resistance” he said “and the potential for bio-pesticides. There are plenty of areas for potential new research.”

“We need more research done on integrated pest management (IPM) and the use of beneficials and biopesticides to help growers keep on top of aphids,” said Mr Steven.

More information on AHDB’s SceptrePlus programme can be found at

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