Article by: Hari Yellina
Following an increase in wireworm damage in root vegetable and cereal crops across the UK, industry leaders have banded together to co-fund a Fera-led R&D initiative to provide an end-to-end solution. Enigma I brings together representatives from Syngenta, Frontier, G’s Fresh, Elveden Estate, Pearce Seeds, Inov3PT, and Blackthorn Arable to better understand wireworm and its changing patterns of damage. Dr. Larissa Collins, entomology R&D team leader at Fera Science Ltd, says, “It’s amazing to launch our first Enigma project with the backing of seven significant agribusinesses, representing a range of crops and stages in the supply chain.”
“Over the course of its three-year initiative, Fera will conduct research to better understand the present wireworm species damaging crops, as well as wireworm lifecycles, with the goal of developing effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches to control the pest.” The Enigma I partners have all reported increasing levels of wireworm damage in their various industries, which is why they are interested in funding research into the issue. Annual output losses of up to 10% have been observed due to wireworm infection, with injured potatoes being degraded to stock feed, salad potato crops being rejected by customers, and the usable yield of carrots being lowered.
“Being a member of Enigma will help us figure out why wireworm damage to our lettuce harvest is skyrocketing.” “The issue isn’t only individual plant yield loss; it also produces tremendous inefficiencies for harvesting crews, which adds major labour expenses,” says Peter Saunders, G’s Fresh’s iceberg crop manager. Enigma I partners working to implement regenerative agriculture approaches are also encountering wireworm damage. “Having a crop in the ground at all times of the year is the appropriate thing to do from multiple perspectives,” says Andrew Francis, farms director at Elveden Farms Ltd. “However, we need effective soil pest management tools to help stay on top of wireworm during each rotation.”
“This Enigma research will be immensely valuable by enhancing our understanding of how different species of wireworm respond to cover crops and min-till agriculture.” Max Newbert, Syngenta’s field technical manager, emphasises how the collaborative research’s findings could have a good impact on the environment. “With the absence of actives for wireworm management, we’re looking for new preventative treatments and tactics.” Environmental stewardship will become increasingly crucial for growers in the future, and a better understanding of the wireworm problem is essential for more targeted use of prophylactics.”