The most significant expansion in applied agronomic research, development and technical support for UK farming in more than 20 years was announced by Agrii at Cereals 2012. What’s more, the entire focus of the industry-leading network it creates is on meeting the most critical agronomic needs and concerns of farmers and growers.
Agrii have invested in a network of ADCON weather stations which are situated across the UK.
The initial phase of the mullti-million pound expansion from parent company, Origin will add new R&D technology centres in northern England and Scotland to the organisation’s existing Essex and Wiltshire bases. With satellite R&D trials investigating specific issues on more than 30 additional sites, this will boost the replicated trial plot base to 50,000 per year from the coming season.
These trials will be complemented by extensive plot and field scale demonstrations on a further 28 commercial farms run in partnership with growers from Devon in the south to Aberdeen in the north.
At the same time, the organisation’s network of almost 70 weather stations, its powerful agronomy portal and leading precision agronomy services are all being developed in parallel in a refreshingly joined-up approach to meeting future farming challenges.
“We have a huge responsibility to ensure our customers are able to apply the innovation they need to meet the particular challenges of sustainable intensification and ever-increasing production risk,” commented Agrii head of technology and services, Clare Bend at Cereals.
“That’s why we’ve put impartial research at the heart of the new business we’re building from the strong ‘evidence-based’ heritage of Masstock and UAP. We’ve set ourselves the task of giving our 300-plus field staff and their customers access to practical agronomic intelligence second to none in the industry. By doing this we intend to play a major part in bridging the serious gap between scientific discovery and practical application.”
Clare Bend is adamant that the ground-breaking R&D expansion over which she is presiding is designed, first and foremost, to deliver the support that farmers and growers actually seek.
To make sure it does, she and her 20-strong technical team have put in place a continuous nationwide consultation with customers and agronomists to constantly re-define their key priorities. They have established an R&D strategy board chaired by leading independent crop scientist, Professor James Burke to guide future development. They are also working closely with some of the country’s most respected independent specialists and organisations to maintain the greatest possible co-ordination of activity and minimise unnecessary duplication.
“Bringing together our two parent companies has given us a unique opportunity to re-evaluate and re-focus our R&D and technology support to plug key knowledge gaps,” pointed out Clare Bend. “We’re doing this by listening closely to what our agronomists and their customers want, and by complementing and extending the valuable independent work of others.
“For instance, we’re now rust screening all varieties in NL1 in our new glasshouse facilities at Throws Farm. We’re stepping-up our multi-site Co-ordinated Growing Systems work investigating interactions between a whole host of different inputs and systems in a major way. And we’re doubling our investment in vegetable R&D, tripling it in potatoes and quadrupling it in fruit.
“Alongside replicated trials where we eliminate as much variation as we can to identify specific input responses, we’re looking to learn every bit as much from response differences across commercial fields in which we’ve been able to understand the natural variation through SoilQuest scanning. Together the two approaches offer far more than the sum of their parts.
“For us it’s all about agronomic risk management,” she concluded. “Utilising the very latest research, statistical and IT techniques and technologies, our over-riding objective is to help our customers get the most consistent returns from their particular resources. Year-in, year-out broad-acre reliability that really irons out the peaks and troughs while steadily pushing-up the farm average.”
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