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The 2022 season has begun well with most crops planted in good conditions, but the rising cost of energy, especially diesel and electricity, is threatening to erode margins.

Across England and Wales, planting is largely complete with a mild and dry April ensuring ground was prepared in favourable conditions. In Scotland, planting is reckoned to be four to five weeks behind.

The rising price for cereals and oilseeds has led many growers to review rotations. Across Great Britain, the area of potatoes is expected to be down slightly, circa 5-7%, on last year. Several buyers have reported that growers are seeking to renegotiate contracts or intend to minimise the planted area within the scope of the contract.

 

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In the year to February 2022, the wholesale price of electricity increased by 303%
Source: Ofgem

Good conditions

One positive of the unseasonably mild and dry winter that continued into March and April is that soil temperatures are up significantly on 2021. It will be interesting to see if these favourable conditions result in less incidence of skin diseases at harvest.

The dry conditions will likely result in a period of protracted weed emergence.  Most growers will have made good use of the conditions to apply a broad-spectrum residual herbicide such as Emerger (aclonifen).  For those still to apply Emerger there are several best practice considerations that will support performance. First, ensure ridges are settled and the crop is at least seven days away from emergence. Second, efficacy is relatively independent of soil moisture conditions and Emerger has a low water and soil mobility, so while a rain shower will support weed germination it should not compromise control. It’s worth noting that Emerger can be applied to all commercial varieties of potato.

With crops likely to make rapid progress in the coming weeks, thoughts should turn to aphid control and disease protection strategies, especially Alternaria spp. (early blight) and late blight (Phytophthora infestans).

The emergence of 41_A2 in 2021 is a timely reminder that blight is a pathogen with immense capacity to evolve. Research found that this strain has exhibited some insensitivity to fluazinam (much like 37_A2) and has the capacity to cycle between sporulations more quickly than other strains. In practice, this means growers will need to remain vigilant when planning a strategy.

A snapshot of Bayer’s 2022 trials

Spraing is a threat for many growers. In support of the recent authorisation for Velum Prime (fluopyram) against free-living nematodes, Bayer is in partnership with two leading independent trials agronomists and a processor to investigate how nematicides and varieties can be combined to reduce the risk to crops.

Bayer will also support the Potato Partnership being led by Agrii in collaboration with Foskett Farms, East Suffolk Produce, Matt Gregory of Greenwell Farms and independent agronomist Graham Tomalin. The trials will investigate variety tolerance to potato cyst nematode (PCN) with Velum Prime serving as the comparison.

Skin finish and skin diseases are a big cause of deductions. In collaboration with an interested multinational processor, Bayer will run UK and EU-wide trials investigating the contribution of Serenade ASO (Bacillus subtilis strain QST 713) in combination with Velum Prime.

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