A NEW £1.4 million, four year crop protection trial will begin next month.

SCEPTRE+ will target disease, pest and weed problems identified as high priorities in AHDB Horticulture's 2017-2020 horticulture strategy.

The programme builds on the success of the original SCEPTRE project, which saw more than 140 chemical and bio-control products trialled in the UK.

That programme tested some of the key "pipeline" conventional chemical and bio-control products that were available for edible crops. More than 80 chemical pesticides and 60 bio-pesticides were tested on fruit and vegetable crops, field-grown and under protection.

As a direct result, 12 Extension of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMU) have been issued, including the emergency authorisation of Benevia 10OD, aimed at helping growers against the large influx of Diamondback moth last year.

Chemical companies continue to produce new, lower environmental impact actives for use on major world crops. But the number of new actives that become registered for use on horticultural crops is relatively small, largely due to the small size of the markets in relation to development costs.

Dorin Pop of Bayer AG, said: "Manufacturers find it uneconomic to test and develop products for 'minor horticultural crops'. This is where SCEPTRE has added real benefit to growers, to hasten the process and bring chemistry to the industry."

Steve Tones, AHDB Horticulture strategy director, said: "SCEPTRE+ has arrived at just the right time, as we embark on a new strategic direction. I have spoken to so many growers who identify crop protection as a high priority to remain competitive and productive.

"We understand Extensions of Authorisations for Minor Uses (EAMUs) are essential crop protection measures for our growers and this project will escalate the rate at which new products get authorised.

"Other, more forward-looking work will focus on the long term development of robust integrated crop management systems to minimise future crop losses from diseases, pests and weeds."