Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Development of drip irrigation technology as a delivery system for the improved targeting and control of nematode pests in a range of root crops - LK0955

Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are a pernicious pest of potatoes which threaten the sustainability of UK potato production. Current control strategies are largely reliant on nematicide granules applied at planting or the use of fumigants pre – planting, rotations and variety selection. The extended hatching pattern of the now dominant species, G.pallida, challenges current control strategies. The purpose of this study is to examine the delivery of doses of nematicide which allow a more effective targeting of the pest (possibly with reduced doses) utilising drip-irrigation techniques. The wider adoption of drip-irrigation for the potato crop may allow other practices for better targeting of inputs (water, nutrients and other crop protection products).
The aim of the project is to evaluate a novel delivery system for nematicides allowing the better targeting of potato cyst nematodes using the minimum input of nematicide. The approach will also allow the removal of risk to operators through the use of a closed system of delivery which will also deliver the product into the soil in a manner that removes accidental risk of ingestion of product by non-target organisms. The risks to soil inhabitants would be no greater than with current strategies and due to better targeting of the sensitive life stages of the pest, amounts used could potentially be reduced.
The complicated inter-relationship between levels of nematicide in the soil, plant development and the behavior of the different nematode species, is fundamental to the long-term sustainability of the technique. A better understanding of pest biology with regard to hatching patterns and improved identification of populations with extended hatching patterns from a practical perspective are also of importance for the successful continuance of the technique in different parts of the country. The development of laboratory based diagnostics (e.g. laboratories conducting analysis of soil for egg burden) will be explored as a means of better identifying populations with extended hatch potential
The work will seek to identify minimum concentrations of nematicide required to prevent damage to potato crops during sensitive life stages of the pest for a range of soil types and conditions. The information would be used to design application protocols to field crops of nematicides over sensitive stages of the crop and pest. The protocols would then be tested in small scale trials over a range of typical potato growing areas. Practical recommendations for targeting the inputs (which may include reductions in doses) over a wide range of potato crop situations could then be prepared.
Additional pests such as free-living nematodes which can transmit viruses causing loss of quality (spraing) could also be better controlled using a more targeted approach. Aphids and Agriotes (wireworm) which are generally unpredictable in their appearance but can cause significant damage may also be better controlled using this approach, particularly against aphid populations resistant to pyrethroids as nematicides offer an alternative mode of action.
The scale-up issues will be evaluated under grower conditions and systems designed to allow closed delivery systems to be developed that are safe for growers to use. Training schemes for adopters would be developed.
The use of the drip-irrigation delivery system will be tested under a range of circumstances using the experiences of our industry partner specialising in the design of grower systems. Computer based design systems are well advanced for irrigation and delivery of water with an accuracy of 90% already achievable. This is a significant improvement of targeting when compared with either granules applied to soil or foliar sprays applied to plants. The solubility of nematicides will be evaluated to ensure that the correct doses are delivered to the distal regions of the pipework.
11.0 Objective(s):
1. To compare the suitability of nematicides for delivery via drip-irrigation technology and to develop a practical delivery system for nematicides that allows a more flexible and targeted approach to control of PCN in potatoes.
2.Potentially reduce the inputs of crop protection products into the potato crop without compromising yield and quality of the produce
3. Improve the delivery of product minimising the risk to operators and non target organisms
4. Assess the system for use against other plant parasitic nematodes, aphids and other pests
5. Examine the opportunities for development of the technology into other crops e.g. Carrots/Parsnips

6. Develop a quantitative assay for measuring levels of oxamyl in soil using either ELISA or enzyme based technologies

7. Investigate the mechanism of biodegradation of nematicides and assess the potential risk of increased degradation through the use of dosed application.

8. Establish how interactive relationships between nematodes, a growing crop, the soil conditions and varied levels of nematicides, affect the PCN dynamics in the rhizospshere.

11.1 Scientific objective(s)
1. To develop protocols and methods for the study of effects of nematicides on different nematode species in different soil types.
2. To develop a control strategy for PCN that results in greatly improved and sustainable use of nematicides at potentially lower rates through targeted delivery of the minimum required amount of active substance via a practical and robust delivery system. This will require the understanding of the complex relationships in the rhizosphere between the nematodes, the growing crop and the changing concentration of the nematicides.
3. To develop a control strategy that improves the management of key free-living nematode species.
4. To develop a delivery system that reduces operator exposure to chemicals and minimises exposure to non-target organisms such as avian species and small mammals
5. To develop a system for characterisation of PCN populations, which potentially will allow more targeted inputs of doses and products. This essentially means identification of hatch patterns in the case of PCN so that input can be delivered to ‘match the hatch’.
6. To evaluate the additional benefits of control of aphid species and other soil pests from the control regime developed which may result in further cost savings and an impact on susceptibility of other crops in the rotation to nematode damage.
7. To validate soil behaviour of oxamyl, garlic and one other chemical nematicide in the light of existing knowledge using this method of application for a range of soil types.
8. To evaluate the scale-up issues for delivery of oxamyl on a field basis including hydrology considerations.
9. To evaluate the efficiency of distribution of the product using this delivery system (to ensure product delivery is even across the treated surface).

Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2007

Cost: £211,764
Contractor / Funded Organisations
British Potato Council, Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), Field (GB) Ltd, CypherCo Ltd, Frontier Agriculture, Du Pont (UK) Ltd, Q V Foods
Arable Farming              
Crop Pests              
LINK Programme              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Technology Transfer              
Fields of Study
Arable Crops