Decision support coming soon

2 February 2001

Decision support coming soon

COMPUTER-BASED decision support systems are already helping growers solve specific crop problems.

But their further development depends on researchers finding suitable business partners to commercialise the relevant software.

That was the main message to come from a workshop organised by the Arable Research Institutes Association at IACR-Rothamsted, where an update on forecasting methods and decision support systems revealed growers should benefit from two new modules next year.

A provisional forecast for phoma development in oilseed rape crops is expected next autumn, as part of the Password project, while the first spray plans issued from Wheat Disease Manager will be put into practice on a small number of farms across the UK.

"Password aims to cover all the decisions relating to pest and disease control in oilseed rape," said Peter Gladders of ADAS Boxworth. "Growers who have used the light leaf spot forecast this season to get a customised forecast of the risk to their crops will know how valuable this sort of information can be.

"We are working on a similar forecasting system for phoma, which is the disease most growers base their spray decision on and we will issue some sort of forecast next autumn."

Neil Paveley of ADAS confirmed that Wheat Disease Manager is being tested on some arable units this year, while a backer is being sought.

"The aim is to have it commercialised by 2002," he said. "It will help growers and their advisers formulate spray plans and allow them to inspect the financial consequences of various courses of action.

"With 314 approved fungicides for wheat, spray decisions are becoming far more complex. Together with legislation and resistance guidelines, there are a huge number of things to be considered when formulating a disease control strategy. This software can help."

The success of disease forecasting was highlighted by the record of the virus yellows forecasting scheme for sugar beet. Introduced in its current form in 1985, it has managed to help growers avoid eight potential epidemics.

Similarly, interactive light leaf spot forecasting on the internet has allowed oilseed rape growers to assess risk more accurately. A big shift in fungicide use to the autumn is just one result of the service. &#42

Decision support systems. Whats available?

Crop/problem Availability

&#8226 Virus yellows forecast Issued every year on Mar 1. for sugar beet.

&#8226 Light leaf spot forecast. Issued on the internet for following spring (

&#8226 Nitrogen SUNDIAL-FRS: Commercially available this recommendations. summer?

&#8226 Environmental targets. EMA: Software available from the University of Hertfordshire for £35+VAT.

&#8226 Wheat disease control. Wheat Disease Manager: Commercially available in 2002?

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