AHDB conference probes future of UK crop production

Integrating research with practice is vital to the future of UK crop production, delegates at the tenth AHDB Agronomists’ Conference have heard.

Around 300 agronomists, growers and other members of the arable industry watched the event earlier this month, and were told how new initiatives had opened up opportunities for the UK’s research community to tap multi-million pound investment programmes.

AHDB head of research & knowledge exchange Dr Jon Knight (pictured above) offered insight into the AHDB-supported £21m crop health and protection (CHAP) initiative that was launched earlier this year.

Knight said CHAP had provided funding to bring “like-minded” people together to tackle pressing global crop protection challenges.

He added the initiative had already “brought much-needed investment” in the Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research Unit and that it can now “bring even more post-harvest solutions to growers”.

Knight also flagged up the opportunity offered by the UK government’s £1.5bn Global Challenges Fund, which CHAP can access, to help develop international solutions that “reflect UK needs”.

Other conference topics included the dependence of growers on pyrethroids insecticides, which make up 94% of insecticides applied to UK wheat and oilseed rape.

AHDB pest research manager Caroline Nicholls said new cases of pyrethroid resistance have doubled in the last three years, and urged the industry “to consider the long-term price of prescribing pyrethroids, use more alternative modes of action and protect natural pest predators more.”

The pros and cons of cover crops were also covered in a presentation by Ron Stobart, head of crop research communication at agronomy researchers NIAB TAG. He said that, although there is no “one-size-fits-all recommendation”, a key take-home message is that it can take several seasons to reap the full benefit from a cover crop and this must be considered to gauge their true rotational value.

Earlier this month, AHDB invited businesses to comment on a new three-year strategy for cereals and oilseeds. The AHDB hopes its new ‘Inspiring Success’ corporate strategy will “create a world-class food and farming industry”, while redefining AHDB’s purpose as “inspiring farmers, growers and the industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world”.

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