Monthly Archives: June 2015

EMR studies apple replant disease

Scientists at East Malling Research (EMR) have been awarded £482,000 to study ‘Apple Replant Disease (ARD) Evolution and Rootstock Interaction (ARDERI)’.

Apple Replant Disease affects newly planted apple trees, which fail to thrive in areas where apples have previously grown. EMR will also collaborate with industry partners to provide detailed information about the disease, which it hopes could be used to develop new management strategies and provide significant input into breeding programmes.

“ARD is a complex disease syndrome and, until recent advances in DNA sequencing technology, it has been practically impossible to develop effective control measures against it”, commented EMR’s Leader of Genetics and Crop Improvement, Professor Xiangming Xu. He continued “With this new BBSRC, NERC and industry funding we will gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the causal agents, the rootstocks and the soil microbial populations. This new understanding will enable us to develop and implement effective control strategies for tomorrow’s fruit growers.”

This announcement is part of £4M being spent by BBSRC and NERC to fund six projects to benefit key crops. The funding is the second round of awards from the Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI), which was developed by BBSRC together with NERC and the Scottish Government to support high quality, industrially relevant research projects on potato and edible horticulture crops.

This post first appeared on HortNews.

Defra faces more cuts

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) faces additional cuts of £83 million during the first year of the new Conservative government under plans announced last week by Chancellor George Osborne.

According to reports the Department will make savings by cutting ‘low priority’ programmes, but has not yet identified exactly where cuts will take effect. It fared better in the most recent round of spending cuts than the Departments of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Communities and Local Government (DCLG) which face cuts of £70m and £230m respectively. However, according to the Institute for Government, proportionally Defra has been the second hardest hit by measures across all government departments.

In March, chair of the EFRA Committee, which oversees the work of the environment department, said, “The Department is worryingly vulnerable. Defra has not identified which specific policies and programmes will be reduced in future years, despite of repeated requests for clarity. We… need to know what the impact of cuts will be on policy delivery [and] where emergency money, such as winter floods response funding, [will be] found.”

This post first appeared on HortNews.

AHDB rebrand includes HDC and Potato Council

New branding and a proposed new way of working for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have been formally launched at the Cereals event in Lincolnshire last week.

The move, which was first announced in January, will see AHDB’s sector-focused activity delivered under six brands: AHDB Beef and Lamb, AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, AHDB Dairy, AHDB Horticulture, AHDB Pork and AHDB Potatoes. Cross sector projects will be delivered as AHDB.

Speaking at the launch, AHDB Chair Peter Kendall stressed that sector specialisms would continue as part of the new plan: “Key to our new way of functional working will be retaining sector expertise and the input of AHDB’s Sector Boards. We will also continue to ensure that levies raised in a sector will be spent for the benefit of that sector.

“Our role is to help put a number of building blocks in place to support the future growth of a competitive farming industry. By working together, sharing expertise and skills across our organisation, I know that AHDB can build on the excellent work it is already providing for all our levy payers.”

The main AHDB Board has also agreed to start a reorganisation of AHDB’s senior team into wider functional roles. This is to drive collective delivery of activity in five areas covering industry strategy, technical, communications and market development, finance and HR.

This post first appeared on HortNews.

Syngenta rejects second Monsanto bid

Swiss-based agricultural and chemical company Syngenta says that it has rejected a second takeover approach by America’s Monsanto.

Syngenta said it received another letter from Monsanto on Saturday 6 June, which repeated the company’s earlier offer to acquire Syngenta for about $45 billion, which was rejected in May partly due to potential regulatory concerns. According to reports, the latest offer added a $2 billion breakup fee if the merger proved unpalatable to regulators, which Syngenta described as “wholly inadequate” and “paltry.”

“Monsanto’s second letter represents the same inadequate price, same inadequate regulatory undertakings to close, same regulatory risks and same issues associated with dual headquarters’ moves,” Syngenta said in a news release. “As such, we have reiterated our prior rejection of Monsanto’s proposal.”

In its latest letter Monsanto said: “As a sign of our high degree of confidence in obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals, we are willing to commit to a reverse break-up fee of $2bn payable if we are unable to consummate the transaction for antitrust reasons within 18 months. Such a fee would be among the highest reverse break-up fees that any company has agreed to.”

The US company says that its current bid represents 15.8 times Syngenta’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) for 2014, a “significantly higher” figure than seen in other deals in the sector.

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CPM trials East Malling’s strawberries

Soft fruit supplier CPM, which is part of the AG Thames Group, has trialled two new strawberry varieties which came from an exclusive breeding programme at East Malling Research in Kent.

“Although still being trialled, results so far have been extremely positive and we expect commercial volumes to be widely available in 2017,” said Tom Rogers from CPM “Both selections have continued to perform well and be more productive than the standard varieties. As we continue the process it will be possible to continue to improve on this with better understanding of the new varieties through time.

“The breeding programme is unique in its focus to look for varieties that perform well in substrate,” Rogers continued. “It is a system that is becoming most widely used by growers due to its unrivalled benefits. We are therefore well placed to provide our dedicated growers and our customers with material that can help their businesses grow and outperform the competition.”

The names of the new varieties have not yet been released, but according to reports one has large, sweet fruit while the other is smaller with a balance of sugar and acid.

Abi Johnson, from East Malling Research, added, “These selections looked extremely promising at East Malling Research, and I’m delighted to see an equally good performance in grower trials.”

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Planning underway for NIAB salad trials

The British Leafy Salads Association (BLSA) says that planning is well underway for the forthcoming Leafy Salad Variety Trials which will be held at G’s Fresh, Barway Road, Barway, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5TZ on Wednesday 1st July 2015.

Aimed at BLSA and HDC members, the day includes three interactive workshops in the morning, with Peter White of Soil Moisture Sense talking about soil moisture monitoring, Tim Lacey of Bayer discussing modes of action and the use of biologicals and Chris Marrow of Elsoms talking about seed treatment technologies.

In the afternoon delegates will have the opportunity to visit over 70 variety plots demonstrated by representatives from key seed houses and will have the opportunity to ask them questions. There will also be a demonstration from Dr Robert Simmons of Cranfield University looking at soil structure and the ARTIS training team will be running a course taster quiz.

To register your attendance please contact Julie Foyster at the BLSA Office by email: or telephone 01507 353792.

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Interfarm and Nufarm join forces

Interfarm (UK) Limited and Nufarm UK Limited have entered into an agreement in which Nufarm UK will be the non-exclusive distributor for Interfarm’s agriculture and horticulture range in the UK and Ireland. Nufarm UK Ltd is one of the top six suppliers of agrochemical products in the UK, providing a full range of crop protection products for grassland, arable, horticultural crops and products for use in amenity situations and by local authorities.

Interfarm and Nufarm UK say they have worked towards developing a broad-based platform for both companies in an attempt to create a strong and efficient route to market as well as enhancing development, product formulation and logistics capabilities.

“This new portfolio of highly complementary products for the arable and horticultural grower will bring a more enhanced product offering to our distributors, just in time to include the launch of new exciting Sumitomo Chemical products,” said John Martin, Managing Director of Interfarm.

John Austin, General Manager of Nufarm UK, added “We are excited to collaborate with Interfarm as this offer will better serve the needs of our customers.”

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Using LEDs to limit growth

Researchers at Michigan State University have used LED lights to produce compact flower and tomato seedling plugs as part of work to look at the effect light wavelengths can have on a variety of plant processes including growth, flowering, fruiting and postharvest quality.

According to an article at Hort Americas, horticulture professor Erik Runkle and floriculture/nursery production extension educator Heidi Wollaeger studied the impact the ratio of red to blue light can have on the production of annual bedding plant seedlings. They looked at the effects of red and blue light on impatiens, petunia, salvia and tomato plugs.

“These four species are very common bedding plants for U.S. growers,” explained Wollaeger. “They are key crops for their sales. The tomato plugs were being grown as vegetable transplants and not for production as greenhouse tomatoes for fruiting.

Wollaeger said all of the species grown under the red light dominant background with a certain amount of blue light displayed desirable plant growth responses. “These plants showed compact growth, thicker leaves and thicker stems,” she said. “As a general rule of thumb, growers should provide at least 10 µmol·m−2·s–1 of blue light if they are providing a red dominant environment to increase plant quality, which results in compact, well-branched growth. This treatment might reduce the need for plant growth retardants. If the light environment is being altered to include more blue light in a sole-source environment, stem elongation is reduced.”

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New irrigation guide for potatoes

The Potato Council has produced a new guide to early season potato irrigation to accompany its existing guidance document.

Potato Council data suggests 55% of growers have irrigation equipment and 40% of the total potato crop is grown on land with short term tenancies. However, by changing management practices and having a long term strategy for water use the recent problems of scarcity flooding and poor water quality could be alleviated.

According to the Council, “Growers recognise the importance of water and how valuable a resource it is. However, as demand for water increases, it is increasingly necessary to justify need and provide evidence of efficient use, both for environmental protection and to meet crop protocol requirements.”

The new guide also considers the effect of irrigation on disease and common scab development. It can be downloaded from the Potato Council website.

This post first appeared on HortNews.

New race of downy mildew recognised

The International Bremia Evaluation Board (IBEB) has officially designated a new race of downy mildew in lettuce: Bl:32. This isolate was already known, but has now become much more widespread in Europe, according to research by the IBEB into the Bremia isolates identified in 2014 and earlier. Most outbreaks of Bremia caused by these new isolates have only local consequences. In recent years, however, Bl:32 has been identified in France, Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, and it has recently also spread to Portugal and northern Spain.

The IBEB is a joint initiative of lettuce breeding companies in France and the Netherlands, the Dutch inspection service (Naktuinbouw) and the French National Seed Station (GEVES). IBEB’s mission is to identify new races of Bremia lactucae that pose a significant threat to the European lettuce industry and promote the use of commonly accepted race names in communication with growers.

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