A new electronic beet that shows the stress created by the harvester was one of the demonstrations by BBRO at the 2018 Innovation Hub. The sugar beet research organisation has kindly sponsored the Innovation Hub on a number of occasions.
CEO Vicky Foster comments that BBRO was pleased to support the Innovation Hub to demonstrate to the general public and other industries how British agriculture is leading the way.
“The electronic beet is helping us to better understand some of the stresses on the beet during harvest. We can put the electronic beet through the harvester, follow its progress and collect real time data. From this we can identify the key pressure points, information which can be fed back to the manufacturers for future development or used to refine machine settings in the field to reduce damage.”
Defence against aphids priority
However, in 2020 the attention of BBRO was focussed on mitigating the impact of the withdrawal of the neonicotinoid seed treatments which has left the UK sugar beet crop exposed to the aphid-borne infection and reliant on foliar applied insecticides.
In 2020 the extensive BBRO aphid monitoring network showed unprecedented numbers of aphids migrating into crops exceptionally early in the season when many crops were highly susceptible. Consequently, many growers have experienced widespread virus infection despite a very targeted approach to aphicide sprays, based on strict thresholds, to help reduce infection.
Vicky continues: “In 2020 we took the decision to put all our efforts into finding solutions for virus yellows following the loss of the neonic seed treatment, and also into discussions with industry and the government to review options that would provide additional protection in the short term.”
Innovation farm new for 2021
BBRO is looking at alternative approaches to controlling aphids and has created an innovation farm area to look at some proof of concept ideas in 2021.
- Undersown cover crops, such as barley, to protect the emerging sugar beet from aphids
- Use of flowering mixes to attract beneficial insects
- Decoy brassicas to attract aphids from sugar beet
- Endophyte grasses to boost natural resistance
- New foliar insecticides and improved non-neonicotinoid seed treatments
In addition the BBRO has two PhD projects looking at how plant resistance is triggered and the molecular variation in virus yellows, to provide new targets and mechanisms for plant protection approaches.
Vicky concludes: “Things are rather hectic at BBRO at the moment as we move into our first field events for quite some time in June (four in total) and we are also relocating our lab and office across the research park in mid-June!
“Despite this we are continuing to do the aphid monitoring – although this has been slightly different with Covid restrictions – but we are still producing the map for growers to highlight the situation in their area. The main aphid migration is just starting now so lots of activity in the plant clinic in the coming weeks.”