The decision support system “Blight Management” (“Skimmelstyring”) could in the future give Danish potato growers more effective control of potato late blight and reduce the use of fungicides.
In a new collaboration project between Aarhus University, Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, Danish Meteorological Institute and starch factories in Denmark, scientists will develop and implement a web-based decision support system "Blight Management” to help potato growers to assess the level of risk from potato late blight, and to use it to decide when to spray and how much to use.
The system can help reduce the use of fungicides to control potato late blight, and it ultimately can result in a more efficient and environmentally friendly potato production.
The aim of the project is to ensure a competitive potato sector that is based on a sustainable production with a reduced use of pesticides and increased efficiency and profitability, which will provide added value in the value chain, says Bent J. Nielsen, senior scientist at Aarhus University.
The background to this project is that potato late blight is such a serious problem in the Danish potato production that potato growers - for fear of losing their crop - routinely spray their fields several times with fungicides. As potato late blight under favourable weather conditions may attack the crop throughout the summer, the fungicide used for its control makes up 25 percent of the total consumption of fungicides in agriculture.
Such a large quantity is not beneficial for either the economy of the potato growers or for the environment so less use would increase the competitiveness of the production and benefit the environment. Project participants will contribute to the positive change by developing a system where fungicides in potato production are applied according to need.
"Blight Management" is a decision-support tool that can be used to decide when to spray against potato late blight, says Bent J. Nielsen.
The system can give an accurate prognosis for the onset of late blight and this forecast can help potato growers calculate how much fungicide is needed. In this way you avoid the unnecessary use of fungicides.
The impact of an implementation of "Blight Management", where the system is used on 65 percent of the potato production area in Denmark, will be appreciable. A fungicide application tailored to need rather than a routine treatment will result in a reduction in the use of fungicide in potatoes for starch production of 20 percent and of 10 percent in other types of potatoes. In monetary terms this corresponds to an annual saving in potato production of 14 million DKK.
Additionally, a more controlled form of spraying is expected to result in better control of potato late blight and a cost reduction that will improve the competitiveness of the potato industry.
The project runs over a four-year period and has received 4.9 million DKK from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP) of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. It is a collaboration between Danish Meteorological Institute, Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, AKV Langholt, KMC and Aarhus University.