Would working with nature stop aggressive pests?

Would working with nature relieve some of the evolutionary pressure on arable weeds and plant pests and disease and stop them from becoming so aggressive? Dr Ed Moorhouse, the new Head of Strategy Development with ITAKA Crop Solution, discussed this subject with others at an Agri-Tech East Pollinator event ‘Mimic, Harness or Borrow; Applying Nature’s Solutions to Agriculture’ held in Norwich earlier this year.

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, commented that one of the interesting trends she has seen recently is the increasing number of organisations developing agri-products based on natural processes and active ingredients. She says; “Bio mimicry in all its forms has a role in conventional and organic farming and some promising solutions are emerging.” Building plant resilience is one strategy for promoting crop performance.

Dr Ed Moorhouse, the new Head of Strategy Development with ITAKA Crop Solution
Dr Ed Moorhouse, the new Head of Strategy Development with ITAKA Crop Solution

Dr Ed Moorhouse, explains that the Rhizosphere is the name given to a region of the soil directly around the roots. “Beneficial microorganisms in the Rhizosphere, such as bacteria and fungi, have an important role in root function, such as making nutrients from the soil more available to the plant and increasing the volume of soil available to the plant. These microorganisms “feed-off” sugars, proteins and other products that are produced by the roots in a mutually beneficial relationship for both the crop and the microbe.

“Modern farming methods have tended to ignore these important relationships, but the increasing interest in improved production efficiency is highlighting the opportunities in this area through creating a better environment for natural populations and augmenting the beneficial microbes.

“Itaka has developed a range of seed dressings and soil application solutions that supplement the natural microbial population. Work with commercial growers has demonstrated improved crop establishment and it is thought that this is due to the beneficial effects on early root development. Rapid crop establishment has several advantages, such as reducing the window for weed competition, and this is likely to become more important with the loss of key herbicides and increased climatic challenges for farmers and growers”.

“Konica and Maxy Root are two examples of a number of products that Itaka has developed to improve crop production as part of an integrated crop management system. These products need to be combined based on a range of factors such as crop, soil type and location to deliver the maximum benefit for the farmer.”

Itaka also produces refined extracts from natural products to reduce pest and disease pressure.

Moorhouse continues: “Many plants and microorganisms produce natural chemicals that deter pests and/or limit their ability to locate host crops. A good example of this is a natural ingredient found in garlic which repels cabbage stem flea beetle, a major pest in oil seed rape. The benefits of this treatment have been exploited by speciality growers for several years, but there is increasing interest for application in large scale cropping systems and Itaka is working with farmers to develop application strategies on these crops.”

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