A grower approach to research

November 22, 2019

ADAS (an RSK company) Principal Soil Scientist Dr Lizzie Sagoo has told Potato Review that the industry could adopt a more farmer-led approach to delivering crop research.

The article, which discusses the potential of the INNO-VEG project, particularly concerning potato crops, follows on from the ADAS press release launching the research project in July 2019.

The first-of-its-kind project will evaluate the suitability of using crop sensing data to assess treatment differences in field experiments. The project aims to develop an overarching protocol for integrating crop sensing data into field research methodologies. It will define and implement a new approach for delivering cost-effective research using remote sensing technology.

Reliable research methods are crucial to underpin the evidence base needed to meet the challenges of sustainable intensification of field vegetable and potato production. This year, 48 field experiments have been set up in the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Using remote sensing methods for traditional labour-intensive research activities, this new approach will reduce the cost of delivering research. This will enable current research funding to address a wider range of research priorities.

In the article, Lizzie goes on to discuss the next steps: “In 2020, field validation experiments will test the protocol developed during 2019 in the field-scale research experiments to develop a framework for farmer-led research. The framework will then be tested in farmer-led field experiments during 2021. Information collected from farmer groups and field testing will be used to refine the framework to ensure the outputs are presented in formats that are easily understandable and written in sufficient detail to facilitate adoption of the farmer-led approach.”

Lizzie says that the project’s main aim is to “improve crop research efficiency and give growers a methodology for carrying out research on their farms”. Current barriers to this aim are the cost, as research budgets are limited, and the necessary evidence to demonstrate that crop-sensing data is a reliable method. If the initial field-scale research experiments are successful, it will provide the evidence needed to take this to the next level, enabling “up-scaling from a small plot to split-field or tramline comparisons, which can be developed further to facilitate farmer-led research”.

You can read the article in full on the Potato Review website (pp.16-18).