Integrated pest management (IPM) will become a key part of the Irish tillage sector’s response to disease and weed control challenges over the coming years.
This was a key message delivered to the Teagasc Crops Forum event by tillage specialist Shay Phelan.
“And this is already happening,” Phelan said.
“Work is already underway to give Irish farmers more specialized and accurate information, where Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) and potato blight control are concerned.
“The use of aphid suction towers, co-ordinated by Teagasc, to capture aphids is making a difference at three locations across the country,” the specialist continued.
“This work is being supplemented by the actual capture of live aphids by farmers as they walk their crops.
“The information being from this work is helping farmers to determine when they should apply an insecticide to crops.
“But, in many ways, there is a need to carry out more research where BYDV is concerned. For example, we need to know the actual types of aphid visiting crops populating crops at a specific time and the types of viruses they are carrying.
“At the end of the day, it is the accumulated virus burden that determines the actual disease threat confronting a crop.
Turning to potato blight, Phelan confirmed the significance of the new warning system proved by Met Éireann.
“Now growers have access to accurate information that is specific to the region they are farming in,” he said.
“In theory, this should act to reduce the amounts of blight sprays used at your national level.”
Other IPM measures that will rise to prominence over the coming years will be the growing of crops containing a mix of varieties.
“This if already happening in countries such as Denmark,” Phelan continued.
“The theory is a simple one: some varieties of crops are more resistant to diseases than others.
“Here in Ireland septoria remains the largest, single disease threat to cereal crops.”
Integrated pest management program
Phelan is spearheading Ireland’s commitment to the EU-funded IPMWorks programme.
Along with a number of Teagasc research and advisory staff, the initiative also involves seven Irish farmers.
Together they are looking at a number of challenges that directly confront Ireland’s tillage sector.
These include: Crop disease management, varietal resistance, BYDV, weed control within cereal crops and the greater use of animal manures within the tillage sector.
“IPM is the future, where the growing of crops under Irish conditions is concerned,” Phelan contended.
“But a number of key requirements must be adopted to make it work.
“These include: The prevention and suppression of problems in the first place, the effective monitoring of crops, effective decision making on the part of farmers and a precise evaluation of all the procedures that are implemented.”