Farmers and scientists must work together to solve urgent agrictultural challenges says new paper

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A new paper in high-impact journal Nature Food has promised to ‘transform global agriculture’ by highlighting the productive relationships between farmers and scientists in solving urgent challenges facing agriculture.

The paper, co-authored by ADAS researchers urges agricultural research organisations and funders to recognise that it is essential to build: “Productive relationships between farmers and scientists … catalysed by the analytical, learning and decision support opportunities presented by digital technologies” for farming to make the rapid changes it needs to reach its potential.

The paper pointed out that farming is an industry full of uncertainties, driven complex, difficult to control systems such as weather.

The researchers argue that  with On-Farm Experimentation (OFE), farmers can actively undertake their own research to test how these challenges are best met on their own farms, allowing scientists to help them set answerable questions and apply new approaches that can interpret big multi-farm datasets.

They sugested that harnessing farmers’ own knowledge and ability to innovate is fundamental to solving agricultural challenges, and that OFE is now rising in popularity across the world, driven by digital technologies, the need for decentralised research and other factors, it requires support and better recognition by funders and investors to revolutionise current ways of farming globally.

The paper gives YEN, founded and managed by ADAS, as an example to demonstrate the new potential of ‘On-Farm Experimentation’. Datasets gathered through YEN via hundreds of farms have allowed both farmers and researchers to determine farm-specific changes as well as new generalisable insights on how to grow more efficiently and develop solutions to challenges which, on an individual farm level, seem insurmountable.

Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley, YEN Director said: “These advances now need further support to develop the potentially huge public, as well as private, benefits of digital agriculture.”

Dr Daniel Kindred, crop physiologist at ADAS, commenting on wheat yields said: “With YEN members and sponsors we are now analysing these to work out how to grow better crops, but there is huge potential for deeper analysis, on-farm trials and learning. And we can now look to join forces with the new global community of ‘On-Farm Experimenters’ which we estimate has already involved over 30,000 farms.”

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