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Arable

Make PCN a priority

With cultivations well under way on coastal sands, over the next two pages Dominic Kilburn takes a timely look at the potato crop’s number one pest – PCN – and discovers that machinery testing, operator training and stewardship is as important as ever for successful and safe nematicide application. There are so many good reasons to get your nematicide applicator ‘NSTS tested’ ahead of potato planting this spring, but the main one is a matter of law. If your kit was over five years old on the 26th November last year, then it was a legal requirement under the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) to have it tested by that date. If, on the other hand, it is less than five years old, it must be tested on its fifth anniversary and every six years thereafter. However, the opinion of one specialist is that nematicide application machinery should be tested annually and he believes that growers would be mad not to. And he should know. Suffolk based RWL Services Ltd’s Richard Lapage (right), and colleague Billy Parker, will test as many as 190 granular applicators this year, finishing in April/May just ahead of the final maincrop nematicide

applications. He started testing machines in December (for applicators operating on land for early carrots and parsnips) and will service, calibrate and test equipment on behalf of NSTS in an area from Chichester in the south to Herefordshire in the west, and Scarborough in the north. In addition, he tests machines for customers of crop protection company DuPont who use its nematicide Vydate (oxamyl), which is making a welcome return to the UK potato grower’s armoury this year after a product shortage in 2016. As well as targeting PCN and freeliving nematode in potatoes, Vydate offers control of parasitic nematode in carrots and parsnips, and various pests in sugar beet. “Why wouldn’t you get your machine tested every year?” questions Richard. “Growers supplying some of the major retailers

The good, and the not so good. On his travels Richard comes across machinery in a range of conditions and pictured are two extremes. The 3-hopper, 1.82m (72in bed) Horstine nematicide applicator (left) is mounted on a Bed Mixer manufactured by Bye Engineering, Melton, Suffolk. The unit is front mounted on a tractor and applies nematicide ahead of a planter on the rear of the tractor. All Horstines are PDA (positive displacement applicators) which offer one metering roller to one outlet, rather than one metering roller sharing several outlets and this, says Richard Lapage, makes them much more accurate in their placement of nematicide. In addition to the Horstine applicator, and sitting behind the hoppers, is a two-section steel tank for Amistar (azoxystrobin) and liquid fertiliser application – all ahead of the planter.

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or processors will already be getting machines tested annually due to the protocols they have to work within, but with nematicide product alone costing in the region of £500/ha, it’s key that growers are applying the right amount of product in the right place, and this is only possible with a machine that is in full working order,” he explains. If the machine isn’t functioning as it should, Richard suggests there could be an over application of product, potentially resulting in a maximum residue exceedance, damage to the environment and a financial cost to the grower. “While under-dosing can result in failure to control PCN and a loss of yield,” he adds. He reckons the vast majority of farmers he visits are complying with the best practice stewardship protocols for nematicide use set out by the Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP), and is reassured by a 17 per cent rise in the number of machines being put through the test in the past 12 months. “This is probably due to the legal requirement for some machines to have been tested by the November date last year, but also I think because of an increase in Avadex use on farm which is, similarly, a granular product. “It’s got people thinking about granular product applications a bit more,” he says. Most machines he tests range from brand new to four or five years’ old, with one extreme example approaching 40 years of farm operation. It still passed the test once it had been serviced and had parts fitted, notes Richard, who says that, ultimately, the responsibility of having machinery in good order lies with the grower. “Whatever the age, it’s absolutely essential to get these machines tested each season. I come back to machines a year later and many are in serious need of attention,” he stresses. The service, calibration and test can take up to a full day to complete, depending on the model, size and condition of the machine, and will cost anything from £100 upwards. Richard says that key items that can fail the test include damaged fishtails, perished hose and broken ‘Surefill’ lids on the top of the hoppers. Metering cassettes at the base of each hopper are the biggest cause of machine failure when they start to wear, mainly

What is an NSTS test?

The NSTS (National Sprayer Testing Scheme) is an annual MOT check for all application equipment, and is one of the main target areas of the Voluntary Initiative (VI), ensuring machines are safe for both the environment and operator. The test has always been a requirement of major crop assurance and supermarket production protocols, and helps to show customers and the general public agriculture’s commitment to keeping machines in good condition and demonstrating best practice. It is now a legal requirement.

Bye Engineering’s Bed Mixer incorporates, rather than cultivates, to ensure granules remain at the desired 6–8in beneath the surface, just prior to the planter coming through. Because nematicide granules start to degenerate as soon as they enter the soil, Richard believes that a one-pass nematicide and planting operation is ideal.

Key items that can fail the test include the seals around the closed transfer ‘Surefill’ adaptor on the top of the hoppers. Here is an example of how not to store an applicator without lids over winter. continued over...

www.farmersguide.co.uk February 2017

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Farmers Guide February 2017  

Farmers Guide Magazine February 2017 Issue

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