Bridging gap between science and farming Certainty is rare in farming, but it is something every farmer craves. In a quest to confirm practical decisions made in crop agronomy and animal husbandry, an increasing number of farmers are conducting their own trials and openly sharing findings with the industry.
ichael Wagner, BASF’s business director of agricultural solutions in the UK, Ireland, the Nordics and Baltics says: “Scientific discovery is at the heart of agriculture, and the closer that discovery is to a farmer’s own land and practices, the more valuable it is. “While we know research and development is vital and respected by farmers as a mechanism for progress, our use of small-plot and laboratory-based discovery is considered too far removed from testing on farmers’ own fields, using their own kit and systems.” It was this desire for farmers to conduct meaningful trials themselves which drove a transformational partnership to be formed. Mr Wagner says: “Two years ago,
we started the BASF Real Results Circle, a three-way alliance between ADAS, 50 progressive UK arable farmers and BASF; our collective mission has been to remove the variability commonplace in farmscale agronomy trials. “To prove one system or practice delivers more output, or profitability, than another, requires statistical confidence. “By its very nature, an individual field on any farm contains a host of variations – some areas may lie wet and cold, while just metres away, the top of a hill could contain very little top soil and a lack of moisture or fertility.”
Tramline assessments The Real Results trials utilise the Agronōmics system to give tramline assessments statistical validity. Within the network of 50 farmers,
it has been used to determine the performance of one wheat fungicide programme with another. Daniel Kindred, part of the system’s development team, says: “The Agronōmics approach, developed by ADAS and AgSpace with the British Geological Survey, brings a new and unique scientific credibility to the design, management and statistical analysis of tramline trials. “Using Agronōmics’ new digital techniques for farm-based research, we have been providing the Real Results farmers with scientific support to help them design better trials as well as providing proper data analysis. This ensures they can have more confidence in the results than they would ever have had before.” Over the past three years ADAS, funded by Innovate UK, has led the
Agronōmics project, developing, with collaborators, the statistics and software to help run on-farm trials. Dr Kindred says: “Agronōmics is about trial design, the way we analyse the data and about doing farm-scale research well. It is also about having a closer connection between researchers and growers, recognising innovative ideas are just as likely to come from growers as scientists. “Using Agronōmics to design the BASF Real Results Circle trials will help remove variance. It is crucial to make sure the comparison is fair to start with and the two areas of the field chosen are comparable. We know there is spatial variation in fields and it is easy to come up with the wrong conclusion.” At present, Real Results is working with farmers to test cereal
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