Industry revamps LINK scheme in four-year SCEPTRE crop protection project

The Government's LINK programme is ending on a high with some of the UK's biggest retailers, research organisations and growers teaming up for one of the scheme's final projects.

Named SCEPTRE, the four-year programme aims to find ways of giving growers more crop protection options as the industry braces itself for the effects of the new European pesticide legislation.

SCEPTRE was given the green light in October and has received backing from Asda and Marks & Spencer, as well as from seven agri-chemical and biocontrol companies including BASF, Bayer CropScience, Belchim Crop Protection, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences. Growers involved include Berry Gardens Growers, Stewarts of Tayside and JE Piccaver. Research organisations taking part include the Horticultural Development Company, ADAS, Allium & Brassica Centre Agronomy and East Malling Research.

Principal research scientist at ADAS Dr Tim O'Neill is leading the research on the project. He told delegates at the ADAS/Syngenta Vegetable Conference last week that those involved are aiming to carrying out research on some of the most pressing disease, pest and weed problems affecting fruit and vegetable crops.

It is hoped that his research will support the development and approval of new products and help growers to devise and implement new integrated pest management (IPM) programmes.

O'Neill added that the research could lead to as many as 15 new specific off-label approvals for fresh produce crops.

"Faced with a declining armoury of chemical pesticides, due especially to changing EU legislation, there is an urgent need to identify new pesticides suitable for use on edible crops, especially any classed as safer pesticides," he said.

"The role and position of biopesticides within control programmes also needs to be determined. Finally, IPM programmes utilising new pesticides and biopesticides and other effective replacement solutions, where available, need to be devised and tested."

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