The 2018 Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC)’s annual conference, held near Towcester last month, was the best attended yet, says AICC chief executive and conference organiser Sarah Cowlrick.

“Despite the challenges facing the UK arable industry over the next decade, these are exciting times for the independent agronomy sector which is increasing its market share.  This was our largest ever attendance from both AICC members and the wider industry, providing unique technical information, an opportunity to interact and network, and, for our 42 AICC Academy members, the chance to learn from their peers.” 

 AICC chairman Sean Sparling added:  “We are a movement, and one that is getting stronger. As independent crop consultants we have an ever-changing tool box to work from, with some exciting new crop protection products coming to the market in the next five years, as well as innovative crop management tools. 

“But we must also look after what we already have, take seriously the issues of resistance and continue to act responsibly in our recommendations to manage this – all of which we can do with ease as there is no commercial pressure to use particular products.”

Dr Elizabeth Stockdale of NIAB TAG, and Professor Richard Pywell of the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology discussed how soils  link agriculture and environment, with a better understanding of soil health and biology crucial to improving crop production. Dr Stockdale urged agronomists and growers to look at how a change in management system, such as min- or no-till, could impact different areas relating to soil and plant health. She also called for a new approach to sampling soils in conservation agriculture systems.

Professor Pywell described trials work to raise soil organic matter levels and biodiversity – compost addition appears to work best in the short term – 3 years – while cover cropping is more effective in the longer term – up to 10 years. More work is planned though the £11 million Assist research project, and industry help is being sought.

Dr Paul Neve of Rothamsted Research and Dr Laura Davies of ADAS addressed herbicide resistance. Dr Neve reported instances of ryegrass resistance to glyphosate in Australia, warning that there was no reason why blackgrass in the UK should not follow the same path.

“There is some evidence that some populations of black-grass are evolving reduced sensitivity to glyphosate, as glyphosate use consistently rises on UK farms; widespread resistance to post-emergence herbicides puts pressure on glyphosate as rare glyphosate survivors are not controlled by post-ems, and reduced tillage also increases the probability that rare survivors will persist. Later and multiple applications of glyphosate also increase the proportion of the population that is exposed to glyphosate.”