Electronic monitor for blight risk
In-field checks of blight
conditions have helped
beat the disease this
year Edward Long reports
AN ELECTRONIC blight forecasting system, which has been evaluated in potato crops across the country this season, is providing growers with the in-field evidence to justify fungicide treatments.
In a season with less blight pressure it should help cut spray input costs, they believe.
The Solomon Mini Meteorological Station is the size of a shoe-box and mounted on a pole just above the crop canopy. Exterior sensors monitor temperature and humidity levels which are "read" by a chip programmed with Smith Period parameters.
Growers simply press a button for a read-out of the daily total of Smith Period hours. If the total is 11 or more on two consecutive days the crop is at risk and needs protecting with fungicide.
"Strict production protocols now being implemented mean potato growers must be able to justify spraying and move away from routine treatments," says Vince Dempsey of agrochemicals distributor United Agri Products.
"Our Mini-Met station provides in-field data to allow specific site agronomic decisions to be made."
This year UAP has 36 stations on farms for evaluation. Mr Dempsey expects hundreds to be at work within two years. They are likely to be hired to potato growers for about £200/year, with the cost discounted according to fungicide orders.
• AP Mini-Met station made by Farm Electronics, Grantham.
• Identifies Smith Periods in crop.
• Helps justify sprays.
• Could aid spray cuts in lower risk year.
• Rental £200/year.