Well-known independent agronomist Howard Hinds has joined Agronomy Connection, further expanding one of the most highly trained teams in the industry with his in-depth knowledge of carrots, parsnips and potatoes.
Nottinghamshire-based Howard started with Agronomy Connection in February. He has brought with him a sizeable group of grower customers and will also train agronomists who want to specialise in these root crops or are taking them on as part of a larger portfolio.
After graduating from Nottingham Trent University in applied biology in 1983, specialising in plant science, Mr Hinds started his career working in arable trials before becoming a potato agronomist with McCain Foods.
He then worked in vegetable sprayer development, helping design a drop-leg machine to improve potato blight control. In the mid 1990s he became a director of Plant Systems, a plant disease forecasting and veg consultancy specialist, where he began specialising in carrots and parsnips.
A decade later he formed his own company, providing independent agronomy services and integrated crop management systems for carrot and parsnip businesses in the East Midlands, Shropshire, the North East and Scotland.
Explaining his latest move, Mr Hindssaid: “One of the big drivers for me joining Agronomy Connection was succession – passing on customers to a new company over a period of time and offering specialist knowledge to younger people.
“I couldn’t see too many agronomists following on into root crops, so I hope this will provide a way of overcoming that so that when I hang up my wellies there will be a good pool of people out there with the necessary expertise.”
Loss of plant protection products
One of the main problems they will need to tackle is the ongoing loss of plant protection products, said Mr Hinds. “This is the big challenge from an agronomy point of view, particularly the loss of insecticides and herbicides.
“We are getting more and more involved in integrated pest management, but the key challenge is to get the same results using these measures as we did beforehand.
“However, we have lost AHDB funding for the horticulture and potato sectors. Much of the work didn’t seem relevant to growers – they saw a lot of the money going on blue-sky research, which was laudable enough, but they couldn’t see the payback.
“So where is the new research coming from? I think there is going to be a place for a research body, but I also think there is an opportunity for companies like Agronomy Connection to step in and become involved in more practical research to develop new management techniques, while continuing the drive to more sustainable production systems.”