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Fera-led R&D project aims to find end-to-end solution

UK industry united to tackle wireworm damage

Following an upward trend in wireworm damage in root vegetable and cereal crops throughout the UK, industry leaders have joined forces to co-fund a Fera-led R&D project  to find an end-to-end solution for the sector.

Representatives from Syngenta, Frontier, G’s Fresh, Elveden Estate, Pearce Seeds, Inov3PT and Blackthorn Arable are collaborating on Enigma I to understand wireworm and its changing patterns of damage in greater detail.

“It’s fantastic to launch our first Enigma project with the support of seven prominent agribusinesses, representing a range of crops and stages in the supply chain,” says Dr. Larissa Collins, entomology R&D team leader at Fera Science Ltd.

“Over its 3-year programme, Fera will undertake research that looks at further understanding the current wireworm species affecting crops and also the lifecycles of wireworm, with the aim of finding successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques capable of controlling the pest.”

Growing levels
The Enigma I partners have all reported growing levels of wireworm damage affecting their respective sectors, hence their motivation for supporting research into the pest.

Wireworm infestation is reported to cause annual yield losses of up to 10%, which includes damaged potatoes being downgraded to stock feed, salad potato crops being rejected by buyers and the useable yield of carrots being reduced.

“Being part of Enigma I will help us to understand why wireworm damage within our lettuce crop is increasing significantly. The problem is not just the yield loss from individual plants, it creates massive inefficiencies for the harvesting crews, which adds very significant labour costs,” says Peter Saunders, iceberg crop manager, G’s Fresh.

Wireworm damage is also posing a barrier for the Enigma I partners working to implement regenerative agriculture practices. 

Need for effective soil pest management
“From several angles, having a crop in the ground at all times of the year is the right thing to do, but we need effective soil pest management options to help stay on top of wireworm through each rotation,” says Andrew Francis, farms director at Elveden Farms Ltd.

“By increasing our understanding of how different species of wireworm respond to cover crops and min-till agriculture, this Enigma project will be extremely beneficial.”

Syngenta’s field technical manager, Max Newbert, also highlights how the learnings from the collaborative research could have a positive impact on the environment.

“With the loss of actives to control wireworm, we’re keen to find alternative preventative solutions and strategies. Going forward, environmental stewardship is only going to become more important for growers, and understanding the wireworm issue in further detail is key to more targeted use of prophylactics.” 

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