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New ways of detecting and mapping wireworm populations are to be investigated by agritechnology company B-hive Innovations to help the potato pest. Funding targets wireworm problem

New ways of detecting and mapping wireworm populations are to be investigated by agritechnology company B-hive Innovations to help the potato pest.

Awarded by the Farming Innovation Pathways (FIP), some £241,000 in funding will be used by project partners to develop technologies for visually detecting where wireworm may be present underground, prior to planting.

Wireworms are the larvae of the click beetle. The larvae grow up to 25mm long and are orangey/brown in colour with a narrow, segmented body. They have biting jaws and three pairs of short legs behind the head.

But insect infestations typically go unnoticed until harvest, by when it can be impossible to salvage the plant. B-hive Innovations will work with Branston and Barworth Research to help farmers make more informed decisions when planting crops.

Branston agronomy director David Nelson said: “We are looking to investigate how we can help improve methods of wireworm detection – and use this information to make better management decisions and reduce often devastating crop losses.”

Wireworm is an issue that affects a variety of crops across the UK. But Mr Nelson said few chemicals were approved for treatment and those available were very expensive.

“New solutions can take years to be approved before launching to market, so developing technologies that predict likely damage levels will help target control measures and reduce levels of wireworm damage to tubers at harvest.”

The funding aims to enable solutions that solve ongoing industry challenges around productivity, sustainability, and achieving net zero emissions. Once completed, findings will help develop innovative solutions across the sector.

B-hive Innovations managing director Vidyanath ‘Vee’ Gururajan said: “This funding is a huge boost for our research and development and will ensure real progress is made in countering wireworm.”

Mr Gururajan added: “Our project will add to our growing portfolio, as we look to continue developing more innovative solutions for reducing food waste and raising the productivity of potato growing.”