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Non-disease benefits in fruit and vegetable crops with Signum

Recent research and development work has proven that the protectant and systemic fungicide Signum provides important and additional benefits in fruit, in particular blackcurrants, and in brassicas over and above its already well known disease control benefits.

Rob Storer, BASF

Rob Storer, BASF

Research work last year undertaken by ADAS and BASF showed that, in brassicas, Signum enabled the more efficient use of available nitrogen and so contributed to a better gross margin for vegetable growers. “This pioneering research work shows that when Signum is used in brassicas for disease control, it also has a positive spin-off effect of reducing the risk of nitrate leaching during the winter following harvest and of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of crop production,” according to Dr. Peter Berry of ADAS who was involved in the project.

He points out that this project indicates that growers could make a small saving in their N fertiliser expenditure through the use of Signum. “More importantly, growers can demonstrate to supermarkets and consumers that they are able to make a positive contribution to environmental measures through reduced leaching and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Supermarkets are under pressure to demonstrate ways of calculating and reducing carbon footprint of vegetable production and this work is well ahead of the game.”

A second separate research project has shown that Signum not only controls all the major diseases of blackcurrants – leaf spot (Botrytis cinerea), Septoria leaf spot (Mycosphaerella ribis) and mildew (Sphaerotheca mors-uvae), but also improved the juice quality with respect to sensory characteristics – taste and colour – and potential health benefits of juice consumption.

Simon Townsend of BASF explains that most blackcurrants are grown in the UK for juice processing and the taste, quality and nutritional aspects of the juice are critical to the processor and end user. “In this two-year project Signum reduced foliar diseases and also made positive and desirable changes to the concentration of sugars, organic acids such as citrate, polyphenols and anthocyanins in the blackcurrant juice.”

“The fungicide was applied at early and late flowering as usual in the field and the blackcurrant juice tested for a range of characteristics including taste, colour, nutritional quality and antioxidants. One particular positive outcome was an even better antioxidant capacity. Blackcurrants are already well known for their higher antioxidant capacity compared to other berry fruits, but the Signum treatments appeared to enhance this even further. It also appeared to enhance glucose, fructose and sucrose levels, although further work is needed to establish the circumstances of this benefit and to unravel interactions between disease, environmental conditions and fruit phytochemistry.”

Rob Storer, Fruit and Vegetable Product Manager for BASF, says that Signum is regarded as a valuable broad-spectrum fungicide by growers, processors and retailers alike. “Signum is not just an excellent broad-spectrum fungicide. It also shows extra plant health effects that are particularly significant in vegetable and fruit crops where quality, visual impact, yield and nutritional characteristics are important. Feedback from the field reflects Signum’s capacity to improve yield and quality beyond expectations, and it is now clearer is that the combination of the direct fungicidal and the indirect plant health effects from Signum add up to higher yields and a better quality and more nutritious end product, which is what this market is looking for,” he says.

Details of the blackcurrant work have been published in the Annals of Applied Biology, Vol. 160, Issue 1, pages 86-96, January 2012. “Treatment with fungicides influences phytochemical quality of blackcurrant juice”, with authors AJ Nwankno, SL Gordon, SR Verral, RM Brennan and RD Hancock.

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