Talking Roots with Darryl Shailes: Drawing up an R&D wish list

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I recently visited the AHDB SPot Farm, at Elveden Estate. It is a really great initiative and of special interest to me to see targeted R&D happening on a sandy soil – types of soil very similar to those where I work.


The range of topics being researched and the efforts being put into ensuring effective knowledge transfer to growers and agronomists should help us move to a more sustainable future.


If I were to draw up a ‘wish list’ of things I would like to look at, most of them are covered at the SPot Farm. Questions such as:



    • Should I split nitrogen in an irrigated crop on very light soils? (Especially when opinion is divided on this issue across the industry).


    • Which fields or varieties should I target most with irrigation when under pressure on these freely draining soils? (Important information which will be vital for all sand land growers who’ll need to be able to justify all water inputs going forward).


    • Should I be considering sulphur inputs in potatoes, when everything else on the farm has it?


    • Does PCN affect crops differently when grown on sand – as most of the work has been done on silt and peat?



Having the chance to look at a range of varieties and how different PCN populations affect them proved interesting, especially understanding the tolerance of many new varieties and how resistant they are in terms of Pf/Pi.


This is going to help us choose which varieties can best help to manage our PCN issues more effectively – all questions which are vital for us to know but for which there is little data bar anecdotal evidence available to us on these soil types.


There was also work being done examining weed control on very light soils – important data to gather in light of the changes in approvals which will impact on available products to use in the next few seasons.


It has always been a dilemma on these soil types trying to decide what rate of metribuzin is possible to use from a crop safety point of view, or if it’s even ok to use it at all. We’ve done a lot of trials work ourselves with this over the last few years and have some useful knowledge.


Inigo (metobromuron) in tank mix with other residuals (chosen according to their weed spectrum performance) has shown to be excellent in trials and in the field. It has demonstrated good crop safety and weed control, and it’s great to see other innovative product combinations looking well in the SPot Farm demonstrations.


We’ve got more trials in the ground this season looking at different programmes of weed control and taking them to yield to what effect they have, again on sandy soils.


The other burning question I have at the moment is what do I do about alternaria? Opinion again is pretty divided. We’ve been looking at alternaria for about five years now and are starting to develop a better understanding, yet there are still some unanswered questions.


So this season we are investigating further by looking at a range of varieties on different soil types. We are overlaying these with various control strategies and nutrition programmes to see if we can tease out a bit more information.


We use Forecast Xtra from Dacom to help guide our decision-making with regards to alternaria and blight and so far this season the forecast risk has been pretty high for both diseases. Again opinion is divided on the value of decision support systems so hopefully the trials we have should help on this as well.


Arable Farming
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