21 November 1997

Technology cuts costs and inputs

ADOPTING cost-effective technologies rather than cutting inputs has helped UK cereal growers become more competitive over the past 20 years and should remain the philosophy for the future. That was the message from Jim Orson, ADAS head of cereals, at a recent HGCA-sponsored conference at the CSL in York.

Improving the cost-effectiveness of existing technologies and using new technologies such as biotechnology, will ensure competitiveness is maintained and improved, he predicted.

But farm-specific advice could be of overriding importance. Much current HGCA and MAFF-funded research is devoted to achieving of more site-specific guidance on the requirements of both pesticides and nitrogen.

Weed mapping or remote sensing will allow the sensible application of improved thresholds, he suggested there is also scope for savings on herbicides by matching products and doses to the weed species and size, soil and weather conditions and crop competition on individual farms.

May increase yields

The introduction of strobilurins in cereals, which appear to have physiological effects and may increase yields, will change current ideas on optimal usage and timing, he added. Their relatively high cost had caused some farmer resistance, although their use had usually been cost-effective, even at current cereal prices, henoted.

A decision support system is being developed to provide comprehensive guidance on site specific fungicide requirements inwheat.

Research was also being done to provide site-specific guidance on the timing of BYDV sprays and the need for controlling summer aphids in wheat.