15th November 2018

The E-Flows Mesocosm is officially opened

Today the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Gove MP, Kevin Hollinrake, who is also the local MP for Sand Hutton officially opened CHAP’s E-Flows Mesocosm. The ceremony came at the end of a conference for farmers on the future of the sector, held at NAFIC, attended by more than 160 people. Delegates were given a tour of CHAP’s capabilities, including Vertical Farming, Crop Monitor, the mobile labs and, of course, the E-Flows. The feedback was excellent with one delegate saying ” I found today’s conference very useful and interesting. As a practical farmer, I found the morning tour the most useful. Seeing the work CHAP is carrying out on crop monitoring. I could see major benefits and am keen to explore the possibilities”

9th November 2018

A report from China

Chris Danks and Ian Cox ( pictured outside the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy in Beijing) took part an Agri-Tech Scoping Mission to China last week. It forms part of a government strategy to boost science and innovations between the UK and China which was launched in December 2017.  The first Flagship Challenge in 2018 will focus on agricultural technologies. The aim of this expert mission is to gather market insights and to build expert foresights on new and emerging innovation sectors, ascertaining quantifiable benefits and synergies between the UK and Partner Countries in accessing/creating commercial opportunities. This enables a portfolio of technological and business priorities to be built to act as the foundation for the UK to be the “Partner of Choice” in resilient and successful bilateral/multilateral partnerships with strategic global economies. A delegation of eight UK companies was there including Dave Ross representing the four Agri-Tech Centres vision.

A specific aim was to refine the scope for the proposed joint funding call through Innovate UK’s ISCF Transforming Food Production programme.  This is expected to be a £5 million funding from the UK matched by China, with the call likely to be launched in 2019. There will be many opportunities where CHAP could play a key partnering role including embracing the concept of a SmartFarm philosophy, driving data driven precision and decision support to enhance productivity and sustainability and the exploration of novel food production technologies (e.g. vertical farming) with a focus upon both the technologies involved but also the economic and market justification for such systems.  Ongoing relationship building will be encouraged ahead of the call to ensure CHAP consortia are prepared for when to call is announced.

7th November 2018

CHAP ‘s new starters wowed by our range of technologies

Darren Hassall (Marketing Manager), Richard Glass (Innovation Hub Lead) and Louise Saw (Membership Manager) are being introduced to CHAP’s brand new facilities. Here they are at Stockbridge Technology Centre. Afterwards Darren said ‘”We had a great  morning with Dave George (Director of Science) taking a tour of the Advance Glasshouse Facility & the Vertical Farming Development Facility. We are all very excited to be working with the whole CHAP team. There is so much to take on board but I can see already the huge potential these technologies will have across the sector, for example using light to manage crops and the Strip Till conservation system. I am looking forward to playing my part in ensuring everyone knows what CHAP has to offer”.

5th November 2018

CHAP has a new Membership Scheme Manager

Louise Saw joins the team as Membership Scheme Manager. Initially she will be researching the different types of membership schemes and working with stakeholders to identify the best one for CHAP. Louise’s background is in Project Management, she has over 15 years project, partnership and stakeholder management. She is a skills expert with broad knowledge and experience in UK education systems. She joins us from the Bio-renewables Development Centre where she was managing a bio-refining project, funded by Innovate UK, to reduce waste from sugar cane processing in India. Louise has also recently gained economic development experience by developing the Skills Service for the Leeds City Region Enterprise partnership, a service which sourced training and offered grants of £500-50k to help businesses grow.

2nd November 2018

CHAP’s E-Flows to be officially opened soon

It’s now just a matter of days before the official opening of the E-Flows mesocosm developed as a partnership between CHAP and Fera and supported by Innovate UK.

A mesocosm is an outdoor experimental system that examines simulations of natural aquatic environments under controlled conditions. As plant protection products such as pesticides are developed and registered, the agro-chemical industry will use a mesocosm facility to test the safety use and impact on aquatic environments, as part of higher tier testing.Historically, many standard mesocosms lack the scale, water flow and realism of real-life aquatic environments. To overcome this, the E-Flows mesocosm is supplied with a continuous flow-through of aged, fresh water and the flow in the test units is closely controlled. The small and constrained studies also encounter high levels of variation across repetitions, which results in the data having poor statistical power. This can cause some safe products not making it to market, causing pesticide options to become limited in agriculture.

For more information contact enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

1st November 2018

It’s all go at CHAP’s Soil Heath facility  

The Soil health Facility at Cranfield University, has seen a busy period with seven commercial projects using various part of the facility now completed. Three of them are funded through the new Johnson Matthey Partnership offering companies the opportunity to develop their project within an intense collaborative programme. In addition the first cycle of a three-year BBSRC project looking at how to use roots to bio-engineer soil has just been completed. A new £1 million research project funded through the Global Challenge Research Fund will make use of the new CHAP growth rooms to overcome soil health problems affecting rice production in sub-Saharan Africa. This project will examine the traits that allow African rice varieties to tolerate Fe-toxicity with the aim of incorporating these traits into high yielding varieties. The CHAP growth rooms offer state of the art climate control facilities including the ability to raise CO2 levels to study the impact of climate change on food production. Further details of this new project can be found at https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/press/news-2018/research-aims-to-boost-rice-production-in-africa.

29th October 2018

Meet CHAP’s new Innovation Hub lead  

Richard Glass will be working with a number of the CHAP capabilities, in particular the E-flows mesocosm, providing supporting data for aquatic risk assessments, and the Crop Monitor Pro, a pest and disease risk forecasting service for key arable crops. These two capabilities at Fera link with the Reference Collection of Crop Biotic Threats held by CABI, Fera and Rothamsted Research. Richard will be working to maximise the benefit from CHAP capabilities by using the precision farming centre based at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), near Selby, where there is also an advanced glasshouse facility allowing rapid screening of plant protection products, in particular biopesticides. The CHAP capabilities aim to provide UK agriculture with information to make more efficient use of plant protection products, and reduce the time needed to bring new products, such as biopesticides to market.

25th October 2018

CHAP and CIEL join forces 

The team from CHAP’s sister Centre, CIEL (Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock), paid a visit to Sand Hutton to find out more about CHAP’s capabilities and to discuss ways of working together. The discussions centred around possible joint projects, shared data, systems and communications. By the end of the session both Centres had a much better understanding of each other’s technologies and priorities and pledged to support each other wherever possible.

24th October 2018

CHAP responds to ISCF ‘Transforming Food Production’ R&D call

CHAP and its Partners were well placed to respond to the first R&D call (£20 million) that focused on innovative business-led projects to improve productivity and sustainability across UK crop and ruminant production systems.

The CHAP team directly supported several bids.These included a Controlled Environment project that includes STC, Liberty Produce and Rothamsted and a variety of technology SMEs. The project, if successful, will use the CEFFC capability, Fine Phenotpying and Molecular diagnostics capabilities to develop high-tech solutions that will enable growers to increase their crop yield and quality, while reducing operation costs and better equipping them to adapt to market demand.

An innovative online soil support tool involving Cranfield and Frontier and associated SME that will provide robust evidence-based guidance direct to users to assist with the development of practical agronomic advice. If funded this will make use of the Soil Health Facility at Cranfield.

A consortium involving Newcastle, Fera, STC and Liberty Produce and a number of other Partners that will develop a decision support system for vertical farming solutions focused on disease mitigation and management and will make use of the CEFFC capability, alongside facilities at Newcastle and STC.

15th October 2018

SMEs come face to face with potential investors

At the KTN Agri-Tech Investment showcase in London, 14 innovative companies (many of which had attended the KTN/Chap masterclass in September) had the opportunity to meet with 45 private investors in a “dragon’s den” environment. The day was a huge success with particular interest in vertical growing and sensors that can be applied to novel systems.  We are optimistic that new partnerships will have emerged from the day and that they will involve the use of CHAP technologies.

12th October 2018

Grand opening of two brand new Stockbridge facilities 

Selby and Ainsty MP, Nigel Adams opened two state-of-the art new facilities at Stockbridge Technology Centre at Cawood. He was joined by the former Selby MP, John Grogan, who is now the MP for Keighley. The Vertical Farming Development Centre, which involves self-contained shelves of crop grown under lights and the Advanced Glasshouse Facility, which allows new approaches to crop production and crop protection with less reliance on chemical inputs will both revolutionise the way food is produced in Britain. According to lead scientist, Dr Dave George, both ventures will help the nation improve its food security and reduce our reliance on imports, whilst meeting the challenge of feeding an ever growing population. The opening was attended by more than 60 people, many from industry. According to CHAP Chairman, John Chinn, the day was a great success and ‘ there was a real buzz of excitement in the atmosphere’.

11th October 2018

 CHAP CEO addresses Game Changing Technologies in Agriculture event 

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black and Zeina Chapman from Liberty Produce talk to a packed audience about their new partnership to build a brand new facility to bridge the knowledge gap between existing and novel growing systems to improve UK agricultural productivity. Zeina said that large scale adoption of innovation is an essential feature of agricultural development and that the Vertical farming market is expected to worth £5bn in 2023.

There was a dazzling array of technologies on display at the event from robots (called Tom, Dick and Harry) to aeroponics and automated vaccinations of fish.

3rd October 2018 

CHAP CEO addresses Game Changing Technologies in Agriculture event

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black and Zeina Chapman from Liberty Produce talk to a packed audience about their new partnership to build a brand new facility to bridge the knowledge gap between existing and novel growing systems to improve UK agricultural productivity. Zeina said that large scale adoption of innovation is an essential feature of agricultural development and that the Vertical farming market is expected to worth £5bn in 2023.

There was a dazzling array of technologies on display at the event from robots (called Tom, Dick and Harry) to aeroponics and automated vaccinations of fish.

27th September 2018

One step closer to a national database of major weed, pathogen and insect agricultural pests

CHAP’s Partners from FERA, Rothamsted and CABI get together to advance the status of CHAP’s National Reference Collection. This capability will provide CHAP Partners with a database to document their compendiums of the major weed, pathogen and insect agricultural pests that they have collected, analysed and characterised over many years. This database will eventually be made available on the CHAP website, where it can be viewed by other researchers and/or industries who might be interested in accessing some of these different species/populations for their future or current studies. Such a reference collection will be the first published in the UK, and is viewed by many of the partners as an important resource that can assist the progression of a wide array of projects, including:

  • those investigating the efficacy of new products on a wide range of populations of a species,
  • projects studying the genetic and molecular diversity between species or within members of a species,
  • and even projects focusing on the evolution of pest species/populations.

The CHAP Partners made significant progress at this meeting,and are currently generating lists of collections they can contribute to the CHAP database.

 

26th September 2018

CHAP’s new Advisory Panel meets for the first time

The Advisory Panel reconvened under its new Chairman, Hannah Senior who is a NED on the CHAP Board, with representatives from almost all the CHAP members and high levels of engagement.  We successfully outlined the group’s new role – to “horizon scan” for new technologies and ideas, as well as to focus minds on challenges for industry and the ways in which CHAP partners might collaborate to solve them.  The discussion outlined that outputs could include identification of promising projects (to be worked up into detailed proposals by Special Interest Groups and other “coalitions of the willing”) or feedback to the CHAP Executive Team for consideration in the longer term strategy and/or asset base.

Building on a range of creative methods to tackle the Yield Plateau presented, a range of potential opportunities from big-picture-long-term to tactical-here-and-now were discussed. Hannah and the Innovation Director, Ruth Bastow, look forward to focusing on those ideas with most engagement in the next meetings, with further dates fixed for December and early next year.

20th September 2018

The official handover of the E-Flows is complete – well done all!

The practical completion and the handover of the E-Flows from Veridian Systems Ltd to CHAP took place today. This means that we can step up the validation process and start putting this fantastic new technology to use.There has been, and continues to be, a huge amount of interest in the mesocosm, Ian Cox, pictured here with his colleague from Innovate UK, John Topless and Lead Scientist Rachel Benstead, described it as ‘spectacular’.

For more information contact enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

19th September 2018

CHAP Partners brainstorm at a Transforming Food Production briefing 

CHAP Partners were invited to take part in a special Bid Development Masterclass focussing on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Wave 2 challenge on Transforming Food Production. This “Productive and sustainable crop and ruminants agricultural productions systems” call is perfectly suited to use a lot of CHAP capabilities and Partners were given the opportunity to discuss some of their projects ideas and receive advice on how to take them further. KTN’s Chris Danks gave an overview of the ISCF wave 2 Transforming Food Production challenge, its overall objectives and the different streams of funding that will come through in the next three year. This is the first Industry Challenge Collaborative R&D funding call coming out of the TFP ISCF challenge.  Liliya Serazetdinova, also from KTN, went through the call scope and application process, highlighting the important points to address and pitfalls to avoid. Chris and Liliya finished by giving partners tips on how to develop a successful proposal either for this call or future Innovate UK opportunities.

13th September 2018

The pros and cons of metaldehyde

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black, speaks at the Metaldehyde Conference 2018, held at NAFIC in Sand Hutton. The conference welcomed researchers and representatives from water boards and industry with a shared passion to reduce the quantity of the commonly used metaldehyde molluscicide reaching the environment whilst improving slug control strategies in agriculture.

The event organised by Newcastle University and the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Innovation (IAFRI) highlighted the pros and cons associated with metaldehyde from the viewpoints of farmers, water board members and scientists, but also demonstrated how the three sectors are managing to work both independently and together to reduce (or even remove) the environmental impact of this pesticide.

Tom Bradshaw, farmer and Chairperson of the NFU Crops Board, provided invaluable first-hand insight into the use of metaldehyde and other integrated pest management strategies on his family-run farm, whilst Richard Reynolds (Anglian Water) and Alexandra Cooke (Severn Trent Water) described the promising schemes and incentives set up by their respective water companies to work with farmers in reducing/removing the need for metaldehyde in their farming practices. In addition, John Haley (Yorkshire Water and UKWIR) discussed the work conducted by UKWIR in collaboration with organisations, including ADAS, to use satellite remote sensory techniques for developing national pesticide risk maps, to help identify areas of high pesticide risk to catchment waters. By generating such information, and maintaining good communication networks with stakeholders and farmers, they hope to promote better use of metaldehyde (and other pesticides and farming practices) in areas surrounding water systems.

From the scientific research point of view, the identification of microbes that can metabolise metaldehyde and use it as a carbon and energy source was certainly very exciting and the day included presentations from both York and Newcastle Universities.

In summary, the day was extremely insightful, provided lots of ‘food for thought,’ and hopefully will result in the formation of several collaborative projects.

11th September 2018

CHAP holds masterclass for SMEs

25 SMEs took part in a CHAP/KTN organised masterclass to support participation in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund wave 2 – Productive and sustainable crop and ruminant agricultural systems which closes on October 24th. UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million to improve productivity and sustainability across UK crop and ruminant production systems. Projects must be business-led and must contain at least one SME. CHAP can be involved in any number of projects as a RTO but are unable to lead any. SMEs engaging with CHAP partners and utilising its unique facilities is a win-win for this industry led funding competition.

The masterclass was very productive with several projects emerging from the discussions involving STC’s brand new Advanced Glasshouse Facility and the Vertical Farming Development Centre.

6th September 2018

Banging the drum for CHAP in Brussels

CHAP Chairman John Chinn Chairman spoke at the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Pesticides at the invitation of West Midlands Conservative MEP, Anthea McIntyre.
It provided him with an opportunity to emphasise the great challenges of the 21st century which are to produce more food from the same area, whilst protecting biodiversity and the threat that, without crop protection tools, farmers could lose 80 per cent of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant diseases. John said ‘I was able to make the point that rigorous testing and application protocols are very effective in protecting the public and the environment, although little attention is given to its other aims of effectively supporting productive and competitive agriculture and horticulture. I highlighted the fact that whilst the regulation has just started its eighth year, it has only brought to the market the equivalent of about one new active substance per year, including low-risk substances. The approach, therefore, is clearly failing to deliver for growers and stifles the availability of safer, more effective and lower risk pesticides’.

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4th September 2018

Commissioning work on CHAP’s brand new E-Flows is well underway

The E-Flows, the first of its kind in Europe, will perform simulations of natural aquatic environments under controlled conditions. As plant products, such as pesticides, are developed, manufacturers will use the E-Flows to demonstrate that their products are safe for aquatic environments as part of higher tier testing. Organisations from all sectors will use the facility to understand the movement of their products through simulated natural water bodies and the potential effects they may have on the organisms in them. There has already been a great deal of interest in the E-Flows and by the agri-tech industry and researchers and CHAP expects there to see many large research and development projects undertaken at Sand Hutton. Its flexibility means that whichever water system is deemed to be at risk, it can be recreated on site to match the real life water body under review. This will not only be an important safety tool for higher tier risk assessments, but also a powerful marketing tool for new chemistries coming to market.

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30th August 2018

CHAP’s iknife providing accurate molecular profile in seconds is much in demand

Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) is a newly emerging technique that allows rapid characterisation of biological samples without any sample preparation.  At Newcastle University, CHAP scientists have used REIMS for Agri-tech applications including characterisation of weed populations that are resistant to herbicides and they have also used REIMS to distinguish different varieties of potato grown under conventional and organic methods.

An electrosurgical knife, known as an iknife, is used to vapourise the tissue, generating a smoke which is drawn into a mass spectrometer.  A fingerprint of compounds is produced which can be analysed to find biomarkers or used to build a library to enable the identification of unknown samples in real time.  Applications include food profiling and authenticity, real time identification of diseased tissue during surgery and identification of microbiological biotypes.

For more information please contact Neil Boonham: neil.boonham@newcastle.ac.uk

14th August 2018

CHAP leads the way with unique technology at Rothamsted

The LemnaTec Phenocenter in the CHAP Fine Phenotyping Lab is fitted with a range of advanced sensors including a chlorophyll fluorometer that allows the non-destructive measurement of key photosynthetic parameters. In a recent project the sensor was used to assess the impact of ‘take-all’ disease on wheat health. The sensor will be interest to industry / academic partners who need to assess the impact on photosynthetic efficiency of factors such as genotype and stress / disease or are developing products to improve plant performanc

In this picture the PhenoCenter is used to assess the impact of disease on photosynthesis in wheat in a take-all infected plant. Pixel colour reflects a key photosynthetic metric (FvFm), with green indicating lower scores.

For more information contact tom.ashfield@rothamsted .ac.uk

13th August 2018

Another exciting new service on offer from CHAP

The CHAP Resistance and Virulence Management Unit at Fera York has just taken delivery of an Oxford Nanopore Technologies PromethION system.  The Unit has existing capability using the MinION system (which has a single flow cell) and is developing protocols using nanopore sequencing for detection and monitoring of fungicide resistance and virulence in pathogen populations.  The advantage of nanopore sequencing is that it can perform direct long-read DNA sequencing so that multiple characteristics can be detected within and between populations.

The PromethION comprises 48 flow cells, each of which can be run separately or concurrently, on-demand and this will allow us to offer this technology as a high-throughput commercial service to the agricultural and horticultural industry for the first time.   The PromethION will work alongside several other high-throughput automated devices and data analytical capability within the Resistance and Virulence Management Unit to deliver diagnostic services at a cost and timescale which can support improved management of pest and disease risk in real-time.

For more information contact; judith.turner@fera.co.uk

9th August 2018

CHAP’s cutting edge-imaging equipment does great work

Our highly advanced imaging  technology in the CHAP Fine Phenotyping Laboratory, based at Rothamsted Research, provides partners with new, more efficient ways to quantify crop traits of interest, to detect stress / disease, and to assess the effectiveness of products designed to counter them. In a recent project involving a BSPP-funded summer student and scientists from Rothamsted, our multi-spectral imager has been used to quantify ‘take-all’ symptoms on infected wheat roots. The ability to accurately quantify such root infections will be of interest to researchers, breeders, and product developers who wish to assess new germplasm and control agents.

Disease detection on wheat roots using multi-spectral imaging. ‘Take-all’ infected plant on the left, a healthy control on the right. Pixels scored as disease are shown in blue, those as healthy root, in orange.

For more information contact tom.ashfield@rothamsted .ac.uk

3rd August 2018

A treat for bees

 

Work looking at developing profitable polycultural production models has been made possible at STC thanks to CHAP’s precision assisted strip-till cultivator. This piece of modern machinery is being used in multiple EU-funded projects to maintain yields whilst realising the benefits of cropping cereals in permanent clover understories that cover at least 50% of the field. By linking all operations to GPS tracking systems, we can return year-on-year to farm the same ‘strips’ in a field, whilst leaving the clover undisturbed. As clover is a favourite for pollinators, it’s perhaps no surprise that the bees approve of this one! All of STC’s work in this area is undertaken collaboratively with Yorkshire-based precision agriculture and machinery specialists, Manterra Ltd, ensuring that the very latest on-farm technology can be used to deliver sustainability gains in a way that is immediately accessible to farmers.

For more information please contact david.george@stc-nyorks.com

30th July 2018

Seven Crop Covers take root at Cranfield 

The first batch of cover crops for the BBSRC funded project `Using roots to bio-engineer soil`(Feb 2018-Jan 2021) is growing in the CHAP glasshouse in Cranfield. In this project Sarah De Baets (PI) and Csilla Hudek (Research Fellow) study how we can use cover crop roots to boost soil functions and prevent soil degradation. The main aim of the project  is to develop a model to select and combine complementary root traits in cover crops that prevent soil resource losses and improve crop growth conditions. To develop the model, root screening will be performed with 7 common cover crops grown in big soil lysimeters, filled with real soil, grown under controlled laboratory conditions. The plants are grown in sandy clay loam with a subsoil compaction treatment. A series of root and soil properties will be carefully determined, and we will use a DNA technique, qPCR, to determine the proportions of root biomass of each species within a plant community.

22nd July 2018

Tomatoes lead the way at STC

STC is well known to the protected edibles sectors, and has been running numerous and varied projects with tomatoes as a focus for many years. It’s perhaps fitting, therefore, that the first two projects to be run through the new CHAP Advanced Glasshouse facility at STC will focus on this crop – one looking at nutrient and water use efficiency across tomato ‘lines’, and the other investigating remote sensing of crop diseases. The first is a large Horizon 2020 project (TOMRES – http://www.tomres.eu/), with STC involvement being led by Dr Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Head of Novel Growing Systems on site. The second project, involving STC Pathologist, Kirsty Wright, has been funded by Innovate UK to test eNose technology under glass.

For more information please contact david.george@stc-nyorks.com

18th July 2018

A delegation from BASF visit Sand Hutton 

A team from BASF visited CHAP to find out more about our current capabilities and to discuss potential future collaborations. They were given a tour of the E-Flows by senior Fera scientist, Dr Rachel Benstead, before discussing a number of areas of interest in addition to how the mesocosm can help them deal with the current complex regulatory requirements. Areas discussed included controlled environments, synthetic and biological crop protection; digital and data solutions for pest, pathogen and weed surveillance, precision applications, soil health and the use of our mobile labs. The CHAP team will be following up on these issues in the next few months.

16th July 2018

It’s all go at Cranfield Soil Health Unit

Following the completion of the commissioning project, the Soil Health Facility is in full flow with five projects starting this month. A large BBSRC funded project will over a period of three years look at the efficacy of roots of different cover crops to bioengineer soil. All 24 soil lysimeters have been filled again and crops are beginning to emerge. Meanwhile, on the benches, we have four projects starting which make use of the integrated Agri-EPI sensor platform. The first two projects, led through Agri-EPI, are (1) looking at early detection of mildew in onions, and (2) determining the canopy structure of different weeds for spray deposition modelling. The other two projects are funded under the new Johnson Matthey Agritech Partnership Programme which offers intensive support to accelerate the market translation of high impact innovations. These projects evaluate “Water Retainer” to prevent soil moisture loss and increase crop yields, and the efficacy of endophytic bacteria to facilitate nitrogen fixing in crops.

12th July 2018

First steps to collaboration -Yorkshire Water visits CHAP

Representatives from across Yorkshire Water with interests in water quality, drainage, catchment and waste visited CHAP at the Sand Hutton HQ. They were provided with an overview of the current CHAP capabilities and toured the E-Flows mesocosm with Rachel Benstead. A number of areas of potential interest and collaboration across the plant growth, crop protection, soil and aquatic environment nexus arose from a lively and wide-ranging discussion and will be followed up in due course.