Crop management and agronomic context of the Farm Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant crops

G. T. Champion, M. J. May, S. Bennett, D. R. Brooks, S. J. Clark, R. E. Daniels, L. G. Firbank, A. J. Haughton, C. Hawes, M. S. Heard, J. N. Perry, Z. Randle, M. J. Rossall, P. Rothery, M. P. Skellern, R. J. Scott, G. R. Squire, M. R. Thomas

Abstract

The Farm Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant crops (GMHT) were conducted in the UK from 2000 to 2002 on beet (sugar and fodder), spring oilseed rape and forage maize. The management of the crops studied is described and compared with current conventional commercial practice. The distribution of field sites adequately represented the areas currently growing these crops, and the sample contained sites operated at a range of management intensities, including low intensity. Herbicide inputs were audited, and the active ingredients used and the rates and the timings of applications compared well with current practice for both GMHT and conventional crops. Inputs on sugar beet were lower than, and inputs on spring oilseed rape and forage maize were consistent with, national averages. Regression analysis of herbicide–application strategies and weed emergence showed that inputs applied by farmers increased with weed densities in beet and forage maize. GMHT crops generally received only one herbicide active ingredient per crop, later and fewer herbicide sprays and less active ingredient (for beet and maize) than the conventional treatments. The audit of inputs found no evidence of bias.