“The changes to soil health have been remarkably rapid”, says Dr Lydia Smith, Head of Innovation Farm & Innovation Hub NIAB, who is hosting one of the Agri-Tech Week 2020 events; many of which will discuss new findings . “One of our farmers in Great Dunmow has already extended the use of the complex herbal ley across the whole estate, he is so convinced by the results after just 2 years on the trial.”
Leading research institutes will be discuss recent developments in a series of events during Agri-Tech Week 2020, including workshops:
- workshops on crop sensing from ADAS
- pesticides for a non-chem world at the Norwich Research Park
- soil health and the circular economy at NIAB
- advanced technologies for soil science that show insights for farmers to be discussed at the AHDB meeting.
The week also includes Agri-TechE’s flagship conference REAP and a controversial discussion hosted by Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.
Soil health and the circular economy
Lydia will chair the final session of Agri-Tech Week 2020 with a practical seminar discussing exciting results from ongoing soil-health trials.
“One study is looking at complex herbal leys (a mix of grasses and other plants) as an alternative to the grass-only leys commonly used in the past,” Lydia continues. “Even in the short time-scale of the study, the benefits of the ley can be seen at all levels with changes in structure even beyond the topsoil.”
Pushing toward a ‘circular economy for agriculture’, the NIAB event will also give a developments such as the use of ‘frass’, a biproduct from black soldier flies reared for animal feed.
Developments in crop sensing
ADAS soil scientist and project lead Lizzie Sagoo explains that INNO-VEG project, is developing innovative methods for vegetable and potato crop research that can be easily upscaled and adopted by farmers. She says “We know that crop sensing data, for example, from drones or tractor-mounted sensors can show up differences in crop performance across a field. We want to see whether these techniques accurately assess final crop yields. If they do, they can be used instead of the labour-intensive and expensive standard field assessments.”
Traditional crop research relies on replicated treatments in small plots and intensive measurements. It is usually led and delivered by agronomy, consultancy or academic organisations meaning that farmers are not asked to play active roles in research and, typically, only host experiments.
“If we can show that crop sensing data can be used to assess differences in crop treatments, we can upscale to split-field or tramline comparisons. Then, we can adopt a farmer-led approach to delivering research in this sector.” The workshop will include presentations from commercial companies working in this area – Hummingbird, Solvi and Uvue.
New technologies showing promise in assessing soil health
Soil health is notoriously difficult to measure and a new technology, Fourier Transform Infra-red (FTIR) spectroscopy is showing promise. It is used to develop correlations between soil organic matter quality and soil aggregate stability and soil resilience. It can be used to predict a wide range of soil properties with the huge advantage that multiple properties can be predicted from a single spectrum.
“FITR can provide very accurate predictions of soil organic carbon (SOC), the best of all the soil parameters which can be predicted in the lab” says Alice Sin, Resource Management Scientist at AHDB, hosts for a workshop on soil monitoring and crop management. “It can also predict bulk density which is needed for carbon stock calculations.
“There is a bit of work needed to get the handheld FTIR method working, so that it could be used in the field to monitor the impact of soil improvements, but it potentially could be a massive step forward in assessing carbon storage.”
Topics of discussion at the workshop also include development of a ‘soil health scorecard’ – a practical way for growers to measure and monitor the impact of soil improvements over a rotation.
Impact of digitisation on agriculture
The global pandemic, COVID-19, has triggered a rapid transformation in communications and connectivity and this has accelerated changes that were already underway, especially in agriculture.
The RNAA experienced the loss of its annual show and like others, it has begun to embrace the ‘virtual’ world. There is now an expectation that this new world is here to stay – so what does this mean for the future?
In a timely contribution to this year’s Agri-Tech Week 2020, the RNAA is hosting a webinar that tackles the issues and implications falling out of these changes for agriculture. How have the new conditions affected the industry? How much is here to stay – or is this just a passing phase? Does the ‘new norm’ open up new opportunities and, if so, how can these be exploited to benefit knowledge exchange and innovation in agriculture? In particular, does digital allow new developments to transcend borders and accelerate the transfer of new learnings and understanding around the world?
This webinar will think critically about future questions to explore how we understand and facilitate agricultural knowledge exchange and innovation processes.
Greg Smith of RNAA and Emily Norton, Savills will be joined by Steven Hughson of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Agritechnica, Germany – Dr Reinhard Grandke of Agritechnica, Germany and Peter Nation, CEO, New Zealand National Fieldays Society.
The international theme for Agri-Tech Week 2020 is continued with the REAP 2020 conference, which sees delegations arriving from across the world to offer collaboration and windows into global markets. This includes a group of organisations from the Netherlands supported by Oost Netherlands.
The Wageningen UR-Foodvalley Region in the Netherlands is a primary knowledge-intensive agrifood ecosystem, characterized by many world-class innovative agrifood and food-related solutions and by cooperation between companies, knowledge institutions, education, and governments.
Ahead of the REAP conference, there is a webinar ‘Meet the Dutch’ which will present an overview of East Netherlands and the agri sector and highlight the services available for British companies that are interested in European expansion.
The five days will see events by ADAS, AHDB, Norwich Research Park, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and NIAB
See below for a summary of the events or click here to access the programme and book tickets.
Monday: ADAS hosts: Use of crop sensing in field vegetable and potato crops Portable crop sensing tools under development for field vegetables and potatoes will be one focus of this ADAS agri-tech seminar, as well as the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), the recently launched YEN Nutrition initiative and latest updates on other studies. To register.
Monday: Meet the Dutch: webinar to introduce the companies joining us from the Netherlands and to discuss the opportunities for UK companies in Oost NL. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your details and putting “agritech webinar 9 November” in the subject line.
Tuesday: Agri-TechE hosts: REAP Conference 2020: From micro-scape to landscape – innovating at the frontier Agri-TechE is at the heart of a vibrant agri-tech innovation ecosystem, and this year’s REAP conference is taking a farmer-centric view of the emerging approaches and technologies that promise improved decision-making at every level. To register.
Wednesday: AHDB hosts: Technologies to enhance soil monitoring and crop management What is FTIR, and is it a breakthrough in soil carbon measurement? How do rotations impact yields, and can the new soil health scorecard give you the real answers? This AHDB workshop looks at outcomes from the ongoing Rotations Partnership collaboration. To register.
Thursday AM: Norwich Research Park hosts: Crops and non-chemical pest control – genetics, environment and biodiversity The aim of this event is to explore the complex interactions between crop, pest and non-chemical controls in a changing climatic and regulatory environment. It will explore the impact of new controls on biodiversity and soil health. To register.
Thursday PM: RNAA hosts: Back to reality? Pushing the boundaries in agri-tech and innovation The global COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a rapid transformation in communications and connectivity. Does the ‘new norm’ open up new opportunities and, if so, how can these be exploited to benefit knowledge exchange and innovation in agriculture? To register.
Friday: NIAB hosts: Soil health and the circular economy; A sustainable future for agriculture Insect biproducts could provide crop defence; New ley mixtures may increase yields; and breeding crops for controlled environments can help British farmers diversify their production. Investigate these topics and more in this session from NIAB. To register.