Fields of Innovation inspire UK vegetable growers
The Syngenta Fields of Innovation Open Day has showcased exciting new developments to help UK vegetable growers face the increasing issues of pest and disease resistances, develop more sustainable agronomy systems with reduced waste, and to meet the immense challenge of labour shortages.
Held in Lincolnshire earlier this month, it was the first Syngenta vegetable crop open field day in the UK for over a decade. It proved a popular event for growers to see new brassica and salad varieties, crop protection developments, application technology insights and environmental enhancement options.
Syngenta Vegetable Seeds Commercial Manager, James Gray, reported the focus on providing solutions to increasing issues of pest and disease resistance was instrumental in future sustainable vegetable crop production.
“Syngenta variety breeders have pioneered effective TopRes clubroot resistance, which has been crucial in maintaining brassica production for some growers,” he advised.
“Now we are seeing the benefits for other diseases, as part of a truly integrated crop management system to consistently produce higher yields."
“Clubroot can cost growers in excess of £4,700 in lost income alone, along with over £1700 in increased growing costs,” he calculated. “A 1% reduction in packout as a result of fungal diseases would typically be worth around £80/ha.
“We introduced the first Savoy cabbage varieties to the market that combine resistance against ringspot, white blister and Clubroot. With unpredictable resistance against several diseases in one variety it helps growers assure quality, whatever the season,” said James.
“Excitingly, we are close to introducing varieties to the market with high resistance to Systemic Downy mildew, which is a major concern for broccoli growers.”
Furthermore, James highlighted that new varieties of Syngenta cauliflower, demonstrated at the Fields of Innovation site, had been shown to deliver in excess of 85% harvestable heads, compared to an industry standard planned at just 65%.
“We are seeing far greater uniformity with varieties, such as Almagro, Ansari and new Andromeda, which enable more efficient use of labour for harvesting, a higher proportion of heads harvested in one pass and far less waste in the field." "
That helps growers and customers immensely with scheduling and reliability,” he added.
Developments with Syngenta’s new Easy-Broc broccoli varieties, such Monflor, on show also created interest and excitement among growers - keen to take advantage of agronomically strong varieties, combined with ease of harvesting and packing/processing, with minimal waste.
For Fields of Innovation visitor and self-confessed broccoli geek, Alistair Ewan, brassica research and development consultant for Greenyard Frozen, the advances he’s seen from putting products such as the new Monflor into the field is helping to drive future growth.
“We are looking for innovation in broccoli with flavour, but also particularly with ease of harvesting. Labour is going to be a significant problem across the whole of Europe, if not the whole world,” he warned. “We are looking for broccoli that we can mechanically harvest more effectively.”
He cited broccoli products such as Monflor as a significant step forward. “This is real innovation. It’s not just broccoli; there’s real flavour in the stem, and that’s what sets it apart.
“We’ve lost some of the flavour from broccoli over recent years. This product not only gives the benefits of ease of harvesting, but excitingly, it also gives us the flavour.”
Ewan highlighted the need to educate consumers for the need to eat not just the florette, but also 50 to 75 mm of stem that can be harvested from the head: “That’s where the real benefits are,” he enthused. The company has frozen some of the Monflor product this season with the stem retained, which will be trial marketed with customers.
This approach would facilitate mechanical harvesting, cut down on processing time and reduce waste, as well as significantly increasing weight of marketable yield from the field.
“I work very closely with the Syngenta teams in the UK, Belgium and Poland. It’s great to be involved with the breeders, who seem to be listening to what the processing industry’s requirements are going forward, because there is a huge opportunity in the sector.”
The Fields of Innovation site, hosted by Simon Naylor, was surrounded by the flowering Operation Pollinator Green Headland environmental seed mix. Designed to offer a fast growing green cover on uncropped field headlands, the mix both protects and improves soil structure around growing vegetable and potato crops, whilst capturing nutrients to improve fertility and reduce growing costs in subsequent crops. Furthermore, it provides an essential source of pollen and nectar for important pollinating insects well as food and habitat for other farm biodiversity.
Further adding to growers’ experience from the event, Syngenta application specialists demonstrated new application technology and advice. The team is working on pioneering research and developments with specific spray treatments in vegetable crops designed to enhance results, as well as better targeting of appropriate applications with 90% Drift Reduction Technology Nozzles that can minimise risks of spray drift to avoid environmental loss.
Syngenta Head of Vegetable Seeds for Europe, Arend Schot, pointed out the Fields of Innovation team had faced the same incredibly difficult weather challenges as commercial growers to establish and grow crops on the unirrigated site this season.
“The results have been a testament to their hard work. It has ably demonstrated the potential for the new solutions on show to make a positive contribution to the businesses of the many growers who have visited."
“It has also been a really important event for us and our variety breeders, to meet and talk with growers and the supply chain to learn more about the issues they face, and the solutions that we can look to develop that best meet customers’ demands in the future.”