Advances in breeding disease resistant parsnips a highlight at Root Crop Growers Evening

Growers, scientists and consultants received a warm welcome to our Root Crops Growers Evening in Peterborough on 23 February 2017. We highlighted our innovative disease resistance research and breeding, as well as crop developments from Bejo Zaden, machinery advances from Garford Farm Machinery Ltd and more. Elsoms MD Robin Wood discussed how the agricultural industry needs to work together for mutual benefit, “Everything we need to help each other is in the room.” With a room full of expert growers and scientists, this message was well received.

Breeding for the Perfect Parsnip by Dr Richard Tudor

Elsoms plant breeder, Dr Richard Tudor, explained that yield is still the most important factor cited by farmers when looking for a new parsnip variety.  Therefore, yield is the of utmost importance when developing new parsnip varieties at Elsoms, “After yield, disease resistance is probably the most important factor.  At Elsoms we have well established methods and procedures for fully testing all new parsnip lines against the parsnip disease, canker. Any susceptible varieties are immediately eliminated from the breeding programme.”
To support the comprehensive parsnip breeding programme, Elsoms are funding a new PhD project to investigate the species further.  The research will include gathering data about the nutritional value of parsnips, bruising and their root colour. This will provide key insights that will help to refine Elsoms parsnip breeding development. 

Parsnip Diseases and Canker by Dr Lauren Chappell

One of the key problems for parsnip growers is canker. Dr Lauren Chappell, an Elsoms plant pathologist, has examined many examples of parsnips sent in from growers, advisors and packaging companies where canker is present, and has identified approximately 20 different species of one of the key diseases, Fusarium. None of these are thought to be primary pathogens.  However, Itersonilia, Mycocentrospora and Cylindrocarpon are three pathogens that have been found to be involved in causing the disease.  Dr Lauren Chappell explains, “We take steps to ensure that the parsnip seed we supply is free from Itersonilia, but it has a range of host plants. For many parsnip growers, chlamydospores of Itersoni are a large concern and Mycocentrospora is aalso soil-borne with a range of wild hosts.”
There are currently no fungicides for canker control so achieving variety resistance is key. However, achieving resistance to Itersonilia and Mycocentrospora will not be simple because different genes are responsible.
Genetic marker technology at Elsoms has helped immensely by speeding up the breeding process and selection, reducing the time frame required for all aspects of the breeding programme.

Crop Breeding Update from Geert van Diepen from Bejo Zaden

Geert Van Diepen from Bejo gave an overview of some of the key issues facing carrot breeders, as well as details of Bejo’s new B-mox enhanced seed treatment.
B-mox is an exciting development that Geert explained was “like an anti-depressant for plants.” This works by improving the stress tolerance of the plants to improve vigour and root development. As a result, this has helped to provide a more even crop and improve disease tolerance, but most importantly yields of carrot and rooted parsley increased by 15%. Trials in the UK showed slightly less differences in yield but higher pack-outs and improvements to the roots were evident. Results from the trial are still in progress but growers will soon be able to run their own enhanced seed treatment trials this year.

Agronomy Update by Howard Hinds from Root Crop Consultancy

Howard Hinds, a crop consultant at Root Crop Consultant Ltd warned how changes to Cruiser’s approval may bring aphid control problems for growers at times when virus problems are more noticeable.
If neonicotinoid applications are restricted, then only one treatment of Biscaya can be used on crops treated with Cruiser. Carrot and parsnip tend to build up from the end of May, as do peach potato aphids which are implicated in virus spread. Issues with carrot colonising aphids can therefore continue into August.  This means that growers could run out of aphid control options could run out by late June.  “It’s quite a long period of control that we need to cover. Even when spraying at 10-14 day intervals, it looks like we’re going to have a big hole in insecticide programmes.” Commented Howard.
There have also been changes to the label of the herbicide Defy, which is used alongside Linuron to control volunteer potatoes, with additional growth stage restrictions that are going to cause problems for growers.  However, more of an issue will be the loss of Linuron, which can only be used until 3rd June 2018.
Howard went on to say, “If we don’t get approval for the Linuron replacement Metobromuron until 2020, there will be a gap of a few years without either product throughout which parsnips we will be nearly organic for weed control.” Howard went on to warn that, once Metobromuron is approved, both pre and post emergence applications will be required on the label. 

“Another problem is the continuing issue of Blackgrass”, he went on to explain, “Centurion Max offers some control and this was recently given off-label approval in carrots. For broadleaved weeds the industry urgently needs to look at other chemistry and we’ve got a lot of herbicides which need trialling.”

Philip Garford of Garford Farm Machinery Ltd

The problems which have arisen from weed control has led to looking at alternative options, such as  precision guided hoes, sprayers and precision weed wipers, all of which are produced by Garford Farm Machinery.
Garford Farm Machinery are well-known for their Robocrop range of computer-controlled, vision-enabled, mechanical and chemical weed control machinery.

Philip Garford gave us an overview of the machinery available and the newest software upgrades, including the ability to custom-select the colour settings to the exact shade required for crop recognition. This makes the machine more reliable when there are discrepancies in the colour of crop leaves.

Philip discussed how the Robocrop Guided Hooded Sprayers provide greater work rate and accuracy. The faster speed assists in providing the best nozzle choice options for narrow bands between the rows of carrots.
The next machine in development is the Robocrop spot sprayer, which searches for vegetation which doesn’t conform to the characteristics of the rest of the crop. As the innovative nozzle travels over the clumps of weeds, it will fire herbicide at the correct moment, hitting only the weed rather than the crop.  “The user interface allows for the selection of the minimum weed clump size threshold,” He goes onto say that, “The percentage of the plant area to be targeted can also be selected.”

Developments for improved yields

Crop growers continue to see fewer options for controlling weeds in crops such as parsnips and carrots. Developments by Elsoms, Bejo Zaden and innovative machinery from Garford Farm Machinery Ltd provide opportunities for farmers to increase their yields and plan for the future.
Look out for future events at Elsoms seeds on our events page.

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