Hope on the horizon for farmers’ field lab looking to control potato pest PCN

The final loss of approval of Vydate to control potato cyst nematode (PCN) brings one Innovative Farmers field lab into sharp focus as many potato farmers search for alternatives.

Farmers in Shropshire and Lancashire have been investigating the efficacy of growing trap crops to control the nematode.

“For 20 years I’ve been planning that part of my strategy will be to include a trap crop within our rotation across the farm,” said Neil Furniss, manager at M.E. Furniss & Sons in Shropshire.

Farmer-led trials commenced in summer 2020 and are now entering their second year. Four farms are supported with researchers through the Innovative Farmers programme. “Members of this field lab were keen to work out what is the latest viable sowing date,” explains Anne Stone, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB Potatoes.

The field lab is investigating two nightshade trap crop species – Solanum sisymbriifolium and a less researched variety, Solanum scabrum. The seeds, provided by Produce Solutions, were planted and compared at two different depths – approximately 1.5 and 3cm. They were drilled between cash crop harvest and planting dates to avoid the loss of the cash crop in the rotation, and drilling took place from early July to early August.

The field lab found that establishment varied considerably between farms and concluded that planting in North Shropshire in late June has potential in lighter soils. At some sites, particularly on clay loam soils, weeds and soil moisture impacted establishment.

Furniss explains, “Because of field lab, we know that in my area you have to get the trap crop seeded in the last week of June – 10th July latest, and it needs to be earlier in Lancashire. We’ve learnt a lot from working with the seed supplier and testing different species.”

Photo caption: The Innovative Farmers field lab is assessing trap cropping to control PCN

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