John Miles, Field Operations Manager for KWS UK Limited, Thriplow, near Cambridge has become the first ever winner of the Barrie Orme Award to come from the plant breeding sector.
John Miles is the
BASIS Barrie Orme Shield winner 2008
The Award recognises excellence in crop protection and is presented annually to the best candidate in the BASIS Crop Protection Certificate exams. 2008 is the eighth year the Award has been made.
The trophy was presented by Andrew Orme, Head of Bayer CropScience UK at a ceremony in London yesterday (1 December). The choice of this year’s presenter was particularly appropriate as Andrew is the son of Barrie, whose work in establishing the BASIS organisation was recognised by the introduction of the Award. Congratulating John Andrew, a BASIS Certificate holder himself, said, “Passing BASIS is a huge achievement; being the best is a magnificent one. It requires skill, determination and a great deal of hard work. You should be truly proud of your achievement.”
Runners up were Sam Harvey a Farm Manager for Velcourt Limited in Wiltshire and Megan Hood from the Sports Turf Research Institute. The Awards are generously sponsored by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), C & J Supplies and Nufarm UK Ltd.
John, 29, joined KWS UK in 2002 on a one year contract after graduating from Harper Adams. At the end of the year he was offered a trials officers role, a position he held for five years until his recent appointment as Field Operations Manager. He is not the only KWS UK employee to be BASIS qualified; two of his colleagues – Gillian Covey and Paul Vincent – also achieved their BASIS qualification this year and they join three others in a company that is committed to ensuring it’s breeding and technical teams are agronomically adept.
John’s enthusiasm is clear, “We’ve got a good young team and the company is investing a lot in our training. We now manage 240ha of development crops. Early generations are sown as spaced plants with no fungicide inputs while later generations in trials are given the best possible crop protection in order to show their potential.”
Mr Miles estimates KWS UK has approximately 3.5 million potential new varieties across all generations in any one season, and says that it takes around ten years to produce a new wheat variety.
“When a variety makes it into national listing we focus on more specific trials for example early September or late autumn sowings. We find out where the variety performs best and pass this on to growers,” he says.
The BASIS Crop Protection Certificate is a tough challenge. It demands a big commitment with the equivalent of 16 days worth of lectures plus revision and the time to prepare the BASIS project report which forms a key part of the assessment process. There is also a written exam and the nerve wracking oral to get through as well.
“It’s the volume of information that you have to retain that makes it so difficult,” explains John who modestly puts much of his success down to his course tutor, James Christian-Ilett. “James was great. He even made pesticide legislation and the approvals system interesting.”
Mr Christian-Ilett added, “John’s performance was outstanding in all of the course assessments. These include a written exam, a weed, pest and disease identification exam and in-field interviews. His project on lodging control and the use of growth regulators was one of the best I have ever marked.”
The BASIS Certificate was originally developed as a qualification for crop protection advisers. Indeed, the Certificate is still a legal requirement for those who advise and supply farmers with crop protection products. Over the years however it has become a popular qualification among others who work in the broader agricultural supply sector as well as with farmers and farm managers.
BASIS Managing Director Rob Simpson commented, “It is very encouraging to see talented young people like John doing so well in the BASIS exam. The standard people have to meet to achieve the BASIS qualification is deliberately set high because the risks from poor crop protection decisions are so great. Poor advice has the potential to damage crops, harm the environment and destroy the reputation of the whole industry. There’s a lot at stake,” he concludes.
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