Industry must work together on plant health amid Brexit uncertainty – AHDB Potatoes Chair

The risks to British crop protection and plant health due to uncertainty caused by Brexit were highlighted at BP2017 today (22 November).

Dr Sophie Churchill, chair of the AHDB Potatoes Board, expressed growers’ concerns about access to plant protection products post Brexit while speaking to the assembled industry at the biannual ‘soil to shelf’ event in Harrogate.

She has called upon the industry as a whole to work together to ensure long-term sustainability and productivity, whatever the future crop protection scenario.

She said: “We don’t know how the crop protection landscape will look post-Brexit and until we know the outcomes of trade negotiations, we are looking at a prolonged period of uncertainty. At the same time, we are aware of potential increased momentum to look for a sustainable future for crop protection in Britain.”

Dr Churchill has spent much of her six months in the role visiting growers and those in the supply chain. She stated the most common concern among farmers was the future of crop protection.

Commenting after Dr Churchill’s speech, Will Shakeshaft of Spearhead Potatoes said: “Over the past ten years a number of seed treatments, herbicides and desiccants have been removed from our tool-kit. Growers have relied on the work of organisations such as AHDB to provide an evidence-base for potential replacements.

“Any sudden or unexpected changes connected to Brexit could leave us without proven replacements for lost products. The consequence could be lost or lower value crop and it will be farmers who will be most affected.”

AHDB manages 137 crop protection and plant health related research projects, with a combined spend of £4.92m across the potatoes, horticulture and cereals and oilseeds sectors.

Dr Churchill added: “Our strength in tackling this issue is not only to consider all potential crop protection scenarios – as we are already doing through our growing Horizon series which includes a report dedicated to crop protection – but also in working together.

“AHDB’s role is to provide a platform, to act as a catalyst for key organisations across agricultural sectors and to take a long-term view on the sustainability and productivity of the industry. We will therefore be leading a wider effort in research and innovation to ensure that the next generation of crop protection products meet these vital aims.

“We will be sharpening our focus on these issues throughout 2018. Growers will be able to access the latest thinking via our Farm Excellence Platform of on-farm events and through future Horizon reports.”

For more visit www.ahdb.org.uk/brexit

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.