Targeting care cuts costly inputs

28 April 2000

Targeting care cuts costly inputs

Big savings on pesticide inputs

are being achieved through

ICM on a Cambs vegetable

unit. John Allan reports

INTEGRATED crop management has an increasing role on HS & D Burgess Stanleys Farm at Yaxley, near Peterborough, where potatoes, onions and carrots are the main crops.

Milling wheat, sugar beet, oilseed rape and peas are effectively break crops on the 202ha (500 acre) unit, where satellite mapping monitors areas affected by potato cyst nematodes.

Four potato varieties are grown. Sante and Maris Piper for their pcn resistance and King Edward and Desiree because the public likes them, says farming director, Jason Burgess. "Breeders need to produce reds with nematode resistance to help integrated management."

Set-aside land is grassed over including the maximum permitted amount of clover. After ploughing the preferred crop is potatoes. But where GPS monitoring identifies a nematode problem wheat is drilled instead. "This helps minimise chemical inputs, which is something we always aim to do," says Mr Burgess. "Monitoring allows us to track even low pcn populations, which can explode rapidly if the wrong variety is planted." Better targeting has cut nematicide use by 45% over five years, he says.

To avoid spreading pcn, soil from dressed vegetables and other operations is heaped up around farm buildings. The resulting windbreak banks are planted with trees and shrubs. In time this will add to biodiversity and avoid disrupting GPS mapping results, explains Mr Burgess.

Precision support also comes from weather recording at 15min intervals through a Dacom station in the centre of the farm. This reports to an agronomists computer allowing spray treatments to be risk-based.

"Last year we saved 20% on the blight programme, though there was no saving on onion downy mildew because of the weather patterns."

Waste soil banks avoid spreading potato pests and should woo wildlife, says farm business manager Andrew Howseman.

Planting grant

A start has been made on planting grant-aided woodland and hedges. These should help increase the populations of natural English partridge, kestrel, corn bunting, golden plover, fieldfare, three species of owl and other birds and wildlife on the farm. All are favoured by its mixed spring and winter cropping and over-wintered stubbles.

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