Next week’s Arable Scotland event on 29 June offers on-line resources and information relevant to the Scottish arable sector. But it will go a step further from other established knowledge exchange meetings as it deliberately sets out to horizon scan future challenges and debate and discuss options with attendees in its Arable Conversation sessions. This steer as to the future direction of the industry has never been more relevant. The current challenges facing the industry are many everything from COVID-19 and Brexit to market uncertainty and extreme weather conditions have tested the resilience of Scotland’s arable production businesses.
The online event will start with an opening and welcome highlighting the latest research and featuring input from SEFARI, the James Hutton Institute, SRUC, AHDB and the Farm Advisory Service. This will be followed by a series of live Arable Conversations sessions which take place throughout the day. Each will address some of the major challenges our industry is facing and debate and discuss what the future direction and needs might be for the arable farming industry in Scotland. The sessions will be led by a chairperson who will be joined by a number of panellists who work in food production, academia and farming. Attendees can can take part in the Arable Conversations discussion by using the hashtag #ArableScotland on Twitter to submit questions during the sessions or the Q+A function in the events.
The 2021 season has really thrown into sharp relief some of the challenges presented by reduced pesticide options. Virus problems are an issue across a number of crops now that we have moved away from neonicotinoid seed treatments. Working in more integrated ways and reducing our reliance on pesticides is self-evidently the way ahead but how this will work in practice will have many drivers. It will need to align to net zero targets and be compatible with what our markets want. Looking at how the industry has adjusted to previous withdrawals is interesting. In a recent study run by Scotland’s Plant Health Centre using case studies, we see that until now it has been mainly by substitution of other pesticides, so for example increased use of pyrethroid sprays to manage aphids or the use of new fungicides like folpet to replace chlorothalonil. But since we anticipate the losses of pesticides and the rise of resistance will be increasingly rapid and challenging, simply substituting them for others will not be enough.
Can we learn from organic sectors or farms that practice enhanced integrated pest management methods? And how does this impact on efficiency and yield and link to the carbon footprint per tonne of crop. Perhaps there are examples of win:wins where there are efficiency gains which also help the carbon footprint of crops and will help achieve net zero targets. For the options that are costly, or which reduce efficiency, will this be where we could prioritise policy incentives and other inputs and activities and what direction will these push us towards?
Rotation comes up as an area where we know there are many advantages to making them more diverse, but this is uniquely challenging in Scotland because of our climate and the need to develop better markets before options, even as obvious as growing more legumes, will really have traction. It gives an example of where, if we could create a bigger market for Scottish legumes, we might actually achieve greater uptake and an upward cycle of benefits to profitability, IPM and greenhouse gas emissions. But even marketing our existing arable crops is challenging. At the moment cereal prices are strong and as a result crops have already been forward sold this year, but there have been challenges here too, along with some contentious issues and risks to growers. And the oilseed rape market has all but collapsed with the real downturn in English acreage and the high levels of imports. These are just some of the issues and challenges that will be up for discussion and debate at Arable Scotland.
Do you want to super-size future Arable Scotland events?
Arable Scotland and its partners are really keen to hear feedback on whether the on-line resources are helpful. We would hope to be back in 2022 with a physical field event but the forced move to virtual delivery has shown the added flexibility in being able to hop easily in and out of virtual sessions and browse information at times to suit. Please provide your feedback if you value the virtual format and would like future events to be a hybrid, offering an online option in addition to infield plots. You can do this by using the feedback forms you will receive when you attend the event.
Arable Scotland is delivered in partnership by the James Hutton Institute, Scotland’s Rural College and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) with support from the Farm Advisory Service, SEFARI, The Scottish Farmer, Hutchinsons and the Scottish Society for Crop Research.
The event is free to attend, and visitor registration is open at https://hopin.com/events/arable-scotland. More information about the event is available at www.arablescotland.org.uk. Five BASIS points will be available to delegates.
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