Multi-colored fields could be future of farming as ‘camo-cropping’ trial to confuse pests underway

NORFOLK, England — Forget typical pesticides used to keep produce-loving bugs off of farms. Farmers could soon simply turn to spectacular multi-colored fields instead. A technique dubbed “camo-cropping” is undergoing trials in England as a means to confuse pests.

Soil is being dyed red, blue and green to hide emerging sugar beet crops from disease-carrying aphids. The pests have become an increasing problem for farmers in the absence of banned pesticides.

It is hoped the trial, held at the 1,730-acre Morley Farms in Norfolk, England, will produce a nature-based solution to protect the sugar beet crops. Food-based dyes are being used so they don’t impact the quality of the crop.

The trial is being led by the Norwich-based British Beet Research Organization. “We spray the soil, and the aphids flying over don’t see the beet coming through so they are flying past,” explains Ches Broom, knowledge exchange manager for the organization, in a statement. “If we have flowering plants or a brassica strip around the field, the idea is that they will miss the sugar beet and go there instead. We are trying some weird and wacky things, but it might be the thing that we need. As an industry we don’t want to be using too many chemicals. We want natural solutions.”

While the beautiful pastel-colored fields may seem like a silly spectacle, farmers are hoping that the camo-cropping strategy will ultimately be just as protective as chemicals.

South West News Service writers Chris Hill and Ben Turner contributed to this report.