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Farming

Sclerotinia risk alerts return

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WITH oilseed rape (OSR) about to enter the critical flowering period, AHDB has restarted its sclerotinia infection risk alerts service for 2019.

The web-based service uses a simple traffic-light system to highlight the UK areas where weather conditions are currently, or are forecast to be, suitable for the sclerotinia pathogen to infect crops.

Covering other key infection information, such as spore pressure data, the service can help focus monitoring efforts and guide the application of protectant fungicides.

Each spring, warm (>10°C), moist soils bring an end to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum’s overwintering stage in the soil, with the development of brown spore-releasing structures. Carried in the wind, the spores can land on OSR, feed on petals and germinate.

Even where spores are present and food is sufficient, conducive weather is still required for infection to occur. OSR is at the greatest risk of infection when relative humidity is greater than 80% and air temperatures are at, or above, 7°C for more than 23 hours.

The infection risk alert service uses observed daily weather data, from the Met Office and Agrii, and forecast data, from Iteris ClearAg, to highlight infection risk for the last 24 (observed) and next (forecast) 72 hours.

For the first time, the service is powered by the AHDB WeatherHub, which means many more sites can be included in the alerts. A traffic-light system is used to mark each UK site as either:

Green = no infection risk alerts forecast
Amber = conditions forecast to come close to triggering infection risk alerts
Red = infection risk alerts forecast

Available for each site, charts show an hour-by-hour breakdown of the observed and forecast sclerotinia infection risk. The observed data in the chart highlights whether any infection risk periods have already occurred.

Commentary, written by ADAS pathologists, is also published as part of the service. This highlights any regional infection risk alerts and near misses, alongside information on crop growth stage. With co-funding and support from BASF, it also provides information on sclerotinia inoculum pressure, based on weekly spore trap (six sites) and petal test data.

Catherine Garman, who manages disease research at AHDB, said: “Fungicides have little or no activity against sclerotinia in a curative situation. This is why they must be applied as a protectant, before infection occurs. Ideally, where disease pressure merits it, any spray should go on just before an infection risk alert. Going on earlier than this may increase the need for a follow-up treatment.”

The optimum timing for a single spray is, usually, just before mid-flowering on the main raceme and prior to significant petal fall. Persistence of full dose fungicides is approximately three weeks. If a spray is made earlier or if the flowering period is extended, a second spray may be required to protect the crop, if the weather conditions are conducive for infection.

No resistance to fungicides has been reported in the UK for sclerotinia. However, strains with decreased sensitivity to SDHIs and MBCs have been reported in France. Mixtures, co-formulated products, and products with a different mode of action should be used across the whole fungicide programme to manage resistance risks.

The sclerotinia infection risk alerts run during the main flowering period – ahdb.org.uk/sclerotinia

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Farming

Alpaca settle in on Welsh hills

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A HERD of alpaca at Aberystwyth University’s upland research centre welcomed two new arrivals during the Covid-19 lockdown.
One male and one female baby alpaca, known as cria, were born at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Platform and are settling down to life in the Cambrian Mountains.
They are the first cria to be born on the University’s land and to be registered under the centre’s new stud prefix ‘Peiran’.
Peiran Champagne and Peiran Cosmopolitan join a small herd of alpacas who arrived at Pwllpeiran in October 2019 as part of a new research project.
Scientists want to see whether the South American alpaca is suited to life in the Welsh hills and could provide new opportunities for uplands farming.
These long-necked animals, similar to the llama, are renowned for the quality of their fibre (wool) and are happy to feed on low quality grasses which are often snubbed by sheep.
The research project is being led by Dr Mariecia Fraser at the Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre, which is part of the University’s Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).
“These are changing times for Welsh upland farming, with the next round of support payments expected to push for a shift away from primary agricultural production towards nature conservation and carbon reduction. In setting up a research herd of alpacas at Pwllpeiran, we want to test whether the alpaca could offer hill farmers a viable alternative to sheep.
“As well as producing high quality fibre, camelids like alpacas have evolved adaptations to enable them to live off poor quality tussock grasses in the Andes, and are happy to tuck into invasive grasses such as Molinia. These forages grow in abundance on the Welsh uplands but tend to be shunned by native sheep. We’ll be looking at the impact of their grazing and how well they could fit in to traditional patterns of farming here,” said Dr Fraser.
The establishment of the initial research herd is being funded by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust, which was set up by the Aberystwyth alumna in 1988.

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Farming

Beef calf registrations increase

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NEW figures released by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that the number of beef calves registered in Wales in the first five months of 2020 is the highest it’s been for several years.
Across Britain there has been an overall rise of 1.2% in calves – both dairy and beef – registered between January and May 2020, compared to the same period last year. In Wales the figure is higher, with an increase of 3.1%.
According to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) the statistics reflect a range of factors, including a trend of producing more cross-bred calves from the dairy herd.
Some of the beef breeds and cross breeds showing the biggest increases in terms of calf registrations in Wales include the Aberdeen Angus (up 11.7%) and Hereford (up 4.8%), whilst both Charolais and British Blue registrations are up just over 4%.
The 2020 figures are a contrast to the last five years, where BCMS calf registration data has indicated a flat picture in the Welsh beef registrations.
HCC market analyst Glesni Phillips said, “These figures could show a positive sign for the future of the beef industry in Wales, and reflect broader trends in both the beef and dairy sectors.
“This comes despite the beef sector being hit by uncertainty in recent times. A combination of market conditions led to low farm-gate prices last year, and demand fluctuated widely in the early stages of the Coronavirus lockdown as pubs and restaurants closed their doors.
“However, we’ve seen encouraging consumption figures throughout Britain in the second half of the spring, with great support from consumers for home-produced beef, with its high standards of welfare and environmental sustainability.”
One high-profile new entrant into the beef sector is international rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE, who has recently started his own ‘Mairwen’ herd of Hereford cattle in Carmarthenshire.
“Having worked at Wern Farm Drefach when I was younger it had always been a dream of mine to keep my own herd,” said Nigel, who has built up to around 30 cattle so far on a 116-acre holding, “and if anything the lockdown has given the chance to get things up and running more quickly, as we’ve been able to get on with fencing, hedge-laying and developing our soil and pasture.”
Nigel added, “Each breed has its supporters, but from an early age I recall visiting my uncle and aunt’s farm, Pentwyn in Llannon, who had a Hereford bull running with the dairy herd. My cousin Helen and Gwyndaf near Aberaeron who run the Creuddyn Hereford herd have also been a valuable source of advice. For me, the cattle have a calm nature and calve easily. They’ll also produce good-quality meat which is important as we develop the business in future.”

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Farming

New edition of Welsh meat ‘Bible’ launched

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has launched the latest edition of its ‘Little Book of Meat Facts’, the annual digest of facts, figures and trends for the nation’s lamb, beef and pork industries.
Among the key figures in this year’s edition were that Welsh red meat production was worth an estimated £690 million in 2018, compared with £677 million the previous year.
In 2019, total throughput of cattle and calves in Welsh abattoirs stood at 147,600 head, with total beef production totalling 42,900 tonnes (up from 40,000 tonnes the previous year). Throughput of sheep and lambs stood at 3.3 million head, with total sheep meat production totalling 63,400 tonnes, compared with 60,800 in 2018.
France remained the largest destination for lamb exports, but with important growth in trade with Germany which is now in a clear second place. Beef and lamb exports were mostly to Europe, although with significant trade to other markets in the Middle East, East Asia and Canada.
The Little Book also contains information on what kinds of meat British consumers are buying and from which retailers, as well as data on key industry measures such as carcase classification.
HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said; “We usually launch the Little Book of Meat Facts at the Royal Welsh Show, so that farmers and other stakeholders can browse the latest statistics.
“Of course, this year that’s not possible, so we’re launching it virtually and making it available on our website.
“What all the statistics show is that, despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit and now of course the disruption of COVID-19, the red meat sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It’s the backbone of rural communities, and also employs large numbers in auction markets, processing and the supply chain, as well as supporting brands which are symbols of our nation’s high-quality food across the world.”

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