Devon Leaf Spot Group

This group consists of vegetable farmers, growing a wide variety of vegetables for the Riverford box vegetable scheme. The farmers are interested in preventing the development of leaf spot, caused by a variety of bacteria, by pre-treating seeds. They hope to be able to improve quality, yields and reduce waste from preventing this disease.

The group is working in partnership with their seed supplier and a seed treatment company to treat the seeds between buying and prior to planting.
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    Trial progress catch up -

    The triallist, researcher and field lab officer met to discuss the progress of the trial so far, any issues and concerns. The researcher also took measurements and triallist and officer took a chard picking for weight analysis.

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    Initial ideas meeting -

    This meeting was for growers from Riverford and South Devon Organic Producers. At this meeting around 8 ideas for field labs were discussed and then narrowed down to 5 strong contenders. The coordinator helped to narrow down the ideas, one being hot-water treating seeds to help control leaf spot disease.

    This can be a relatively expensive treatment, however the cost of yield loss in comparison is something that the farmers are interested in evaluating. The hope is to identify a sustainable solution to this disease.

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    Methods clarification -

    The group met with researcher Dominic Amos to clarify questions on the methods and discuss the trial layout. Two varieties of chard have been decided upon to trial with. The programme of drilling the chard seed will be driven by the vegetable box requirements, as ordered by customers. The seed has already undergone the hot water treatment (HWT) of which the majority have been treated, with remaining left for control comparisons.

    For practical purposes, the box used to gather the chard for harvest will be used as an area measurement of the crop to assess. This will be done multiple times across the field in order to gain replicability and more scientifically robust results. It will also be undertaken several times throughout the growing season, however it would be unfeasible to do so every week.

    A scale will be decided upon to rate the amount of leaf spot. There will also be help from Dominic on several occasions to help gather the data where the farmers are too busy in the peak of the season to do so.

    Photographs will be taken to help record the amount of leaf spot on each sample harvested, and can be used later on in the trial to help evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

    The coordinator mentioned that brush weeders need to be planned in to the process.

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    Field lab planning -

    The group of growers interested in trialling leaf spot hot-water seed treatment met again to discuss how to progress with the trial. Initial method ideas were laid out for the following spring, with discussion around:
    - Comparing treated vs untreated seed but otherwise crop grown to normal commercial methods
    - Recording seed tests results before and after hot water treatment
    - Crop germination/establishment,
    - Crop assessed for disease levels (by % leaf area affected) correlated to picking rate
    - Indication of weeds present
    - Soil tested for pathogens.

    The group are considering trialling with a chard crop.

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