Farming and scientific leaders discuss challenges facing UK’s crop production

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Key stakeholders across the UK’s farming sector have joined academic scientists for a collaborative workshop to discuss the challenge of increasing crop production whilst maintaining soil health.

The workshop, ‘Increasing crop productivity through understanding and improving soil health’, was co-hosted by the N8 Research Partnership’s (N8) AgriFood programme and research and consultancy company ADAS.

Farmers, agronomists, farming industries and academics attended the event, which was held at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus.

The session was jointly hosted by N8’s chair in soil microbiology Professor Tim Daniell from the University of Sheffield and Dr Pete Berry, head of crop physiology and principal scientist at ADAS.

The free-to-attend workshop, organised by N8 AgriFood’s business development manager Dr Stephen Oyston, targeted four challenges highlighted by the ADAS-led Yield Enhancement Network (YEN).

YEN, which is a network of farmers, farm industries and applied scientists, has identified several possible bottlenecks in the development of sustainable agriculture. These include manipulating soil biology, improving applied nutrient use efficiency, reducing crop damage and improving soil health.

Prof Tim Daniell of N8, said: “This was a valuable opportunity for members of the farming and academic communities to discuss some of the most pressing issues currently facing the UK’s crop industry and develop projects to fill knowledge gaps restricting sustainable agriculture.

“N8’s AgriFood programme is ideally placed as it combines world-leading crop and soil research and has the capability to contribute towards creating innovative solutions to overcome the challenges posed by YEN.”

Attendees were also provided with updates on current scientific knowledge, practical implications and funding schemes, as the workshop aimed to lead to a number of collaborative grant applications between industrial and academic partners.

Dr Pete Berry of ADAS said: “The UK has plentiful resources for crop production, with potential yields much higher than current levels, yet only modest progress has been made for over 20 years.

“There are several possible mechanisms by which improving soil health could increase crop productivity including increasing water acquisition by crops and increasing the availability of nutrients for crop uptake.

“It is likely that there are other mechanisms yet to be identified and it will be important to test ideas for improving crop production at the field scale.”

The picture shows Dr Pete Berry

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