Trials by Scottish Agronomy suggest that ‘sowing wildflowers into potato crops could reduce aphid-carried viruses and offer an alternative to declining access to insecticides for growers.’
Eric Anderson, senior agronomist and potato specialist at Scottish Agronomy has been working with grower Jim Reid on Milton of Mathers Farm and McCain Potatoes, as part of AHDB’s four-year SPoT farm project.
Jim explained, “The trade for Scottish seed potatoes is reliant on an excellent reputation for virus health, and with the pressures of reduced access to insecticides, whether through regulation or greater resistance in aphids. It is more important than ever to look at how we can use biology and targeted chemistry to keep disease at a minimum. Through these trials we are exploring the roles biology, ecology and evolution play and how we can rethink aphid and potyvirus control on a commercial scale.”
Following work at Rothamsted on carrots, and Swiss work on potatoes, low growing plants with the same height as the potato crop, such as cornflower, common vetch and yarrow have been sown in 3m-wide strips between the tramlines to attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds.
Eric Anderson added, “We are still refining, to assess whether the species sown and sowing dates have an impact on the value of the strips and whether it supports the types of natural enemies needed to control potato pests and to deliver them to the crop when needed.”
Photo caption: Species such as cornflower have been identified as being of benefit
Photo source: Geograph