Discover the latest innovations in agronomy at Fruit Focus

New fruit varieties and the latest agronomic innovations will help growers make the best of their crops at Fruit Focus this year.

The industry’s premier event will be held at NIAB EMR’s facility in Kent on 25 July and will give growers a great opportunity to find the right agronomic advancements to help them prepare for the future. “It can be difficult to keep up with the latest innovations but at Fruit Focus you can see it all in action and get practical advice from companies too,” says Jon Day, event director at Comexposium. “It’s a really exciting time for growers and we have all the latest technology in one place.”

Producing the best possible crop without impairing the gross margin, while also preventing pests and diseases, will be on the mind of every producer at the moment. “The fundamental issue this year has been the cold spring followed by fine weather, causing sudden growth,” explains Mike Stoker, fruit and horticultural specialist at Yara. The markets have therefore flooded which has been reflected in farmgate pricing.

A lack of water may also begin to pose an issue for some growers, says Mark Davies, commercial head of fruit at Agrovista.  “Some counties have had less than 5% of their total rainfall in June.”  But the latest advice and products can go a long way to help with these issues – all of which will be on offer at Fruit Focus.

One such innovation is from BASF, which has created a new preventative fungicide for powdery mildew.  Charm can be used for strawberries, protected tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. It’s low risk to pollinators and has short harvest intervals,” says Rob Storer, business development manager at BASF. In five trials with strawberries in the field and in polytunnels, untreated strawberries had, on average, 12% powdery mildew infection, says Rob Storer, business development manager at BASF. Once Charm was applied this reduced to 2.2% after one week and to 2% after 14 days, compared to the standard programme which reduced mildew to 4% and 3.8%, respectively. “This is a result of Charm’s rapid uptake, mobility and persistence,” says Mr Storer.

Growers who are seeking alternatives to chemical pest control will be interested to see Bionema’s new a new nematode-based pest control product which will be launched at the show. The Tri-Component System claims a 20-30% higher efficacy than other traditional nematode-based products and boasts a kill rate of up to 95%.

“Many of the traditional chemical products have already been withdrawn,” says Bionema’s managing director, Dr Minshad Ansari. “A high proportion of these pesticides had also become ineffective due to the target insect developing resistance.” With a focus on reducing the risk of food contamination, now may be the time to look at alternative pest control options, he adds.

Raspberry growers will be interested to see that James Hutton has bred a new raspberry variety, Glen Carron, which has been tipped as a hot contender in premium offerings. “It’s all about the flavour with this raspberry,” says Nikki Jennings, soft fruit breeder at James Hutton. “It’s sweet and confectionery-like; some people say like sherbet – with a low acidity. It always does amazingly well in blind tastings: It tastes great, looks great, stores well and can contribute to reducing waste.”

Strawberry growers will not miss out either, as Flevo Berry has developed a new variety: Sonsation. On the market after eight years of breeding it boasts a shiny appearance and lower susceptibility to the root disease, Phytophthora, says Marcel Suiker, plant breeder at Flevo Berry. “For us, flavour and sustainability are at the top of the list.” Having a variety which is robust will benefit farmers in terms of reduced cost of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, he adds.

Water conservation, reducing irrigation cost and curbing water run-off are all of concern to strawberry growers. They will therefore be interested to learn the results of a recent trial with a conservation agent, H2Flo from ICL. H2Flo is mixed with water, which then penetrates the soil three times deeper than water alone. “By looking at data from moisture probes, we found that H2Flo moved the water down to 60cm, which benefits the plant root growth,” says Scott Garnett, ICL senior agronomist.

ICL has also had successes with its PK Fertiliser, PeKacid. It found that in trials flushing irrigation lines with this fertiliser increased dripper outputs by 6% from 101ml to 106ml, says Richard Collins. says Richard Collins, ICL technical sales manager. “Use of the PK fertiliser can not only increase yield outputs as part of a nutrition programme, it also assists in keeping drip lines clear from calcium build up in areas of hard water.”

With over 120 exhibitors, Fruit Focus has some of the best companies in the industry, showcasing the newest technology and advances, says Mr Day. “Growers will be guaranteed to take something away with them, whether that’s a new idea, fruit variety or revolutionary crop protection method.”

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