Letters to the Editor

17 October 1998

EMERGENCE in some potato crops in the eastern counties this year has been uneven. Late drilling into poor ground conditions will not have helped but there are reports that seed treated with fenpiclonil have fared particularly badly. Whats going on?

NOVARTIS has received a number of enquiries from potato growers who experienced poor and uneven crop emergence this season where Gambit (fenpiclonil) seed treatment was used, We believe the problems seen are part of the broader picture of poor emergence and crop development experienced on a wide scale during 1998.

February was very warm, April very wet and May drier than average. These conditions contributed to a general problem with emergence associated with this season.

Novartis takes particularly seriously all product performance enquiries and, pending the results of further evaluations, has decided to place a temporary halt on sales and use of the product and to implement a product recall campaign. It must be stressed this is a precautionary measure while we evaluate scientifically the possible causal factors through rigorous trials work and assessment of field data in 1999. It is our intention to resume sales of the product once tests have been satisfactorily completed.

It is important to note that, despite extensive investigations, no direct link has been established between Gambit and the early season problems reported by growers this year. Additionally, emergence problems have not been limited to an association with Gambit. They are also unique in the products UK development and commercial history.

Andy Pigott,

Novartis Crop Protection, Whittlesford, Cambridge

Farm Management Pocketbook by John Nix, £8.75 from Wye College Press, Wye, Ashford, Kent TN25 5AH. ISBN 0-86266-059-9

Probably the most useful item youll find for under a tenner this year. From tractor operating costs, through oilseed gross margin calculations, to setting up a golf course, this is the farmers source book. Each edition is updated to reflect changing trends. For instance, this newest edition has background on livery, which is becoming a lucrative arable farm sideline, and …ostriches. Each to their own!

The Living Fields: Our Agricultural Heritage by Jack Rodney Harlan, £35 from Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-64992-7.

This is one for the enthusiast curious to learn more about the origins of domesticated crop plants and how cultivation practices developed with early man. The author is professor of plant genetics at the University of Illinois so his examples are drawn mainly from the Americas, Africa and Asia. If you want to impress in the snug with your knowledge of the role of emmer wheat in building up to todays high yielders, this is for you.

Dictionary of Plant Pathology by Paul Holliday, £85 from Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-59453-7.

Most of the time this dictionary is going to be a boon to specialists, at other times it will be infuriating for the non-specialist seeking clear guidance but finding it hidden behind the scientific explanation. A useful tool for pathologists but tricky going for anyone who dozed off during plant science lectures.

Letters to the Editor

Hop off Europe

WHILE raising taxes on pension funds and motorists, the Government is happy to spend over £7m on promoting the Euro to firms and individuals.

Around 90% of our trade is concentrated within Britain or with countries that will not be joining the single European currency next year. Yet the official message insinuates that unless we get on the Euro bandwagon, our businesses will produce a "pathetic performance". Given that Britain trades profitably with every continent apart from Europe, that is quite a slap in the face.

There are also issues that the spin doctors would rather play down. These range from the cost and disruption in abolishing the pound to the loss of control over our economy. Most important of all is that if it doesnt work out, there is no way out. (This also seems to be ignored in William Hagues plans).

Readers wanting a more balanced view should send a SAE for our free fact sheet to: New Alliance, PO Box 13199, London SW6 6ZU.

Lynn Riley,

New Alliance.

Ballerina comeback

I WAS disappointed the article in Crops, w/e 19 September on Ballerinas performance in the presence of rhizomania. There have been no claims that this variety is totally resistant or that it is the complete answer to a disease which appears to be steadily progressing through some very important beet areas.

Rhizomania has occurred predominantly on very light soils where sugar beet is highly important to the success of the farm. At present there is no instant cure, so those farms where it has been identified and wish to continue sugar beet growing have to use all means at their disposal to minimise the spread. One of these is to use a variety such as Ballerina which is proven to reduce virus multiplication compared with susceptible varieties.

To put the performance of Ballerina into perspective, in 1997 around 300ha were grown on non-infected fields giving very acceptable results. In the NIAB trials of that year the growers income exceeded that of Aztec, Saxon, Zulu and Madison (Crops, w/e 6 June).

In the presence of a very severe artificially-induced rhizomania infection, two UK trials indicated a greater yield loss than had been expected from previous trials data from Holland. However, if a severe infection does occur, surely the 24% yield reduction of Ballerina is preferable to the 80% reduction of a susceptible variety. The use of Ballerina must be a step in the right direction in minimising the spread of the disease until the next generation of varieties is available.

Rebecca, currently in the third year of NIAB trials, has shown improved yields, bolting resistance and rhizomania resistance, and so could very soon replace Ballerina as it has in Holland, where over 10,000ha of this variety are growing in 1998.

Michael Coy,

English Sugar Beet Seed Company, Sleaford, Lincs.

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