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New GM Crop Management Systems Give Wildlife Benefits


In research published today, scientists from Broom’s Barn Research Station conclusively show how to use GM herbicide tolerant (GMHT) crop technology for environmental benefit. The authors suggest that the new crop management approaches they have demonstrated could resolve legitimate concerns about indirect environmental effects of GM sugar beet on weeds, insects and birds. John Pidgeon, director of Broom’s Barn comments that ‘This work adds a new perspective to future discussions about the benefits from GMHT sugar beet that the public, environmentalists and farmers should all be interested in’.

To obtain wildlife benefits in spring, the authors have improved timing of herbicide application to maximise both crop yields and the benefits from leaving weeds between crop rows. Maximising yields removes barriers to farmer up-take. However, autumn environmental benefits are more important, as autumn weeds provide seeds for bird food and for recharging weed seedbanks. The paper demonstrates a system that gives maximum crop yield AND increased weed seed availability (up to 16 fold), compared to previous GM or conventional management systems tested in the government’s recent Farm Scale Evaluation trials. The new system is extremely simple in comparison, it involves applying the first spray fairly early and omitting the second spray – making additional cost and pesticide savings on top of the already large savings compared to conventional practice.

Mike May | alfa
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