23 November 2001

Plea goes out to conservationists

SIMPLE modified band-spraying techniques on GM herbicide tolerant sugar beet can offer valuable wildlife habitats without limiting yield. But conservationists requirements must be more precise to allow the technique developed at IACR Brooms Barn to be used to best effect.

Stone curlews, for example, prefer bare soil between the rows, said director John Pidgeon. But other species may benefit more from the cover and insect life among inter-row weeds left to grow quite large before being removed with a broad-spectrum herbicide.

"We now have the tools to achieve weedy crops without yield loss." He believes the work at Brooms Barn is equally relevant to a wide range of row crops and the rest of Europe.

"We can create a wide range of bird habitats. But one of the biggest difficulties is getting conservationists to define their objectives," said Dr Pidgeon. "Often they are not very clear."

Wider publication of the experiments, with specific recommendations, is expected soon. &#42