Camouflage is one of the techniques being deployed by the BBRO (British Beet Research Organisation) to protect sugar beet from viruses spread by aphids. The BBRO has a team of scientists and field trials operators working on industry-focused research projects and it has for many years sponsored the Agri-TechE Innovation Show at the Royal Norfolk Show.
The withdrawal of chemicals has created a challenge for sugar beet growers, but BBRO has been developing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to provide more sustainable alternatives.
Dr Vicky Foster, Head of BBRO comments: “BBRO are proud to be sponsoring the Innovation Hub again this year, allowing a number of interesting companies to join us in showcasing new technology and advances in agricultural research. With the changing face of farming and the loss of many chemical actives there is a lot of exciting work to discuss.”
Tackling Virus Yellows with cereal camo-cropping
One of the major concerns for the sugar beet industry at present is the prevalence of Virus Yellows, a complex of three viruses that are transmitted by aphids (Myzus persicae and Macrosiphum euphorbiae). BBRO is researching two potential ways to combat the spread of this disease by using camouflage techniques.
The first is cereal camo-cropping. The theory is that growing a cereal crop in with the sugar beet helps to obscure it by reducing the soil-plant contrast which aphids use to locate sugar beet. The other approach is to use food dyes to change the ground colour and hide the emerging beet.
BBRO are also undertaking several projects related to beneficial insects, with intercropping and flowering strips to encourage beneficial numbers and also flowering mixes to act as either repellent’s or draws for the aphids, effectively pulling or pushing the aphids out of the beet crop.
BBRO are committed to finding solutions for the sugar beet industry through integrated pest management (IPM), an area of work led by Dr Alistair Wright and Dr Georgina Barratt, who will be at the show to discuss their trials.
Vicky continues: “It is important to test these techniques under different conditions so we want the help of sugar beet farmers to explore camo-cropping as a future mitigation strategy against virus yellows.”