Gloucestershire-based agronomy development business Emerald Research claims that EU-funded research indicates that a biostimulant product code-named ERL-32 can successfully prevent potato blight infection by stimulating plants’ natural defences.

Simon Fox, director and founder of Emerald Research, says that the trial is being carried out as part of the NASPA (Interreg Atlantic Funded) project. Results have shown that ERL-32 can help reduce growers’ reliance on chemical crop protection by inducing resistance to the disease.

Trials carried out an experimental farm at Bangor University evaluated biological controls for blight infection against the current industry standard crop protection programmes. “The potato crops in the trial were given a routine fertiliser mix, based on a standard soil analysis, before being treated with regular applications of one of the chosen trial compounds,” states Mr Fox.

“ERL-32 and a number of other candidate biostimulants were tested against a fungicide standard, mancozeb, alongside a control plot that had only water applied. We found that ERL-32 gave the best induced resistance to the common blight strain Pink 6 A2, with the crop showing less than 1% blight infection, whereas mancozeb showed 10% and the untreated plot close to 100% infection.”

Mr Fox explains that application before potato late blight infection allowed the plant to resist infection even at high levels of risk, as indicated by the Hutton Criteria. He notes that the outcome of this trial highlights the many benefits that a growing range of biostimulants can offer potato growers.

“Firstly, there are no spray or harvest intervals with these compounds, and it’s safe for both growers and the environment. They also offer a wide range of benefits to the crop itself in terms of inducing a more robust, vigorous and healthy plant.

“In turn, this means the crop will be growing to its maximum ability and that it’s able to achieve the potential that growers are seeking,” concludes Mr Fox.