Give farm assurance the hard sell to consumers
By Peter McGrath
FARM assurance is being investigated overseas and is set to offer marketing advantages at home. But more needs to be done to get to consumers to choose assured produce.
Those were key messages at a meeting organised by the Fife branch of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.
"When returns are high, it is easy to justify assurance schemes," said Peter Stewart, NFU area president. "But now, when returns are non-existent, farmers wonder if they should subscribe."
But the opposite is also true, stressed WCFs Jim Aitken, who packs potatoes for Tescos Natures Choice scheme.
"In the current situation it is easy to sell potatoes and there is little commitment to Natures Choice. But that will change and it is likely that the scheme will be pushed over the next year or two."
Schemes do give access to markets that would otherwise be closed, admitted Mr Stewart. "The schemes should be seen as a marketing tool. But we have to educate the consumer to look for assured produce."
In an increasingly global market, assurances is highly regarded world-wide, said John ORorke, technical manager with Scottish Quality Cereals. Similar schemes will become operational in Sweden this year and Canada next year. The Australians, Dutch and French are also developing their own assurance protocols. *
Treat spring barley with mildewicides
LOW doses of mildewicides may still be needed even for so-called resistant spring barley varieties, says Peter Mercer from the applied plant sciences division at DANI.
"In trials Riviera, selected for its mildew resistance, showed a response to fungicide spray far more marked than expected. Yields levelled out at around a quarter dose and it suggests that, in at least some circumstances, rather than a complete lack of sprays with a disease resistant crop, a reduced spray dose may be more appropriate," he told the Crop Protection in Northern Britain conference at Dundee.
Keith Dawson of CSC Crop-Care said current economics meant farmers had to be cost effective with their use of chemicals.
He promoted adjuvants as a sensible way of reducing total inputs, but warned that each crop and treatment needed individual attention. "Beware the man coming up the farm road with a bottle of adjuvant that he says will cover everything. That is not the way these things work." *
Precision weed control… this IACR Rothamsted trial aims to show the importance of correctly timed cleavers control. Spray too early and a second flush of cleavers could emerge, warns worker John Cussans. Weeds are being tagged as they emerge, ready for weighing in late May, so their role in crop competition can be identified.
Uniform couplings proposal on table
NEW guidelines encouraging pesticide manufacturers to produce uniform closed-transfer system couplings are just around the corner.
Draft proposals from the BAA and the AEA are aimed at agreeing on a uniform standard interface between sprayers and returnable containers. They are intended to prevent the UK following the US where there is proliferation of different systems, says Novartiss John Cowland, chairman of the BAAs packaging design group.
At present most UK systems are catered for by only two companies. The new guidelines, currently being assessed by manufacturers and the European Crop Protection Association, are intended to ensure that any newcomers work to the same criteria on couplings, leakages and residues remaining once containers are emptied.
"We are trying to get pan-European guidelines, and I believe there shouldnt be any problems provided they are not too restrictive," says Mr Cowland.
Eric Gussin for Cyanamid, whose Ecomatic returnables already comply with the guidelines, says such systems offer benefits for both operator and the environment and believes the guidelines could give them a boost. *
All closed-transfer systems could soon have a valve like this. The BAA has produced a standard set of guidelines to speed the adoption of such systems. This Micromatic valve, as fitted to Cyanamids Ecomatic system, already complies.
• CROP protection specialist Cropcare Southern of Devizes, Wilts has been acquired by * L Hutchinson, the family-owned East Anglian distributor.
• THE wet winter has left more oilseed rape crops than normal short of boron and manganese, warns micronutrient supplier Headland. Normally about 60% of early tissue samples show shortages. This season the figure is nearer 80%, it says. Many crops are also said to be short of magnesium.
• A NEW range of foliar nutrients has been launched by Cutonic. The Lamfos products all contain phosphorus and what the company says is a unique wetter/sticker system to speed uptake and activity in the plant.
• THE merger of DuPonts agricultural businesses with plant breeder Pioneer Hi-Bred International to create an enterprise with $5bn annual sales is expected to close this summer.
• RHONE-POULENC is to sell its 2.4-D herbicide business to New Zealand-based NUFARM group to concentrate on high value-added products such as fipronil insecticide.
• NEW sponsor for the Silver Lapwing Award, the FWAG-organised conservation competition for UK farmers now in its 21st year, is CWS Farms Group. "We believe environmental responsibility does not conflict with profitable farming," says CWS Farms head of business development Malcolm McAllister.
• DISEASE control and yield increases offset any hint of increased cereal lodging from using strobilurin fungicide Landmark (epoxiconazole + kresoxim-methyl), says maker BASF. However a robust PGR programme is recommended.
• IRRIGATION tape with a built-in copper core said to cut bacterial slime blockages has been launched by Sussex-based ISC. US-made Tiger Tape is no more expensive than similar gauge tape without the core, a single 12,500ft roll of disposable gauge costing £240 + VAT.
• NEXT years HortEx exhibition for hoticulturalists will be at a new site, the Telford International Centre, Shropshire, on Jan 18 and 19. The event has been held in Harrogate for the past two years.
• WATCH out for leatherjacket damage to sugar beet, warns IACR-Brooms Barn, The pest could be more troublesome than normal this year especially after grass, says Mike May. *