16th November

CHAP hosts Tesco Industry Day

Today CHAP hosted the Tesco TSFG Brassica suppliers’ group day. We were delighted to welcome the Tesco team and some of their suppliers to Sand Hutton to explore ways we can work together. The aim of the day was to give the group a better understanding of the role of CHAP and how they can access our capabilities. Chris Danks from KTN gave them a very thorough introduction to the UK funding landscape. This was followed by presentations from Rob Simmons on the Cranfield Brassica Yield forecasting model, Rachel Benstead talked them through the E-Flows Mesocosm and Phill Davies and Adam Omerod, once again, did an impressive job of setting up a mobile demonstration of STC’s LED lighting on basil.  The last couple of hours of the day was an open discussion on the challenges facing the sustainability of brassica production, which led to a number of potential projects being identified, using several CHAP assets, for a variety of potential funding routes and consortiums.

If you would like to set up an Industry day with your stakeholders, please contact us at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

8th November

NAFIC Science Careers Open Day

We were delighted to welcome dozens of students at our CHAP stand at the NAFIC Science Careers Open Day in Sand Hutton. They came from York, Leeds & Hull Universities and also from Askham Bryan College in York and were mostly undergraduates doing a range of relevant science degrees. It was good to see that so many hope to pursue a career in agriculture related jobs. Many were interested in an internship with us at CHAP. If you would like more details, please contact Charlotte Milligan charlotte.milligan@chap-solutions.co.uk

30th October

Experiments are underway in the Soil Health Facility at Cranfield University

The first experimental work is now underway in CHAP’s brand new Soil Health facilities at Cranfield. These unique facilities recreate at the pilot scale (<1m2 – >20m2) the dynamic interrelationships between soil health, water use and biotic factors (pathogens, weeds and roots), whilst controlling the environmental variables that influence them. They also allow reproducible soil management practices that are currently adopted by industry as well as testing innovative approaches. The system generates better understanding of the role of tillage (from intensive through to no-till systems), drilling, plant establishment, crop development, harvest operations and post-harvest soil management on soil health (and thus crop quality, quantity and resilience). Uniquely the facilities allow for crop cycles to be investigated thereby capturing the longer term dynamics. This promises to be an exciting and busy time at the Soil Health Facility. We expect to produce lots of video material and images in the coming months and also look forward to welcoming those of you who would like to inspect it for yourself.

25th October

CHAP hosted its first Farmers Day

CHAP Partners were out in force showing off their latest technologies to a group of farmers in our first ever Farmers Day. After an introduction from Chairman, John Chinn, they were given a demonstration of CHAP’s ‘in field’ diagnostics for the early identification of Septoria in wheat and herbicide resistance in blackgrass; shown the latest development in the building of the mesocosm; the opportunity to inspect one of CHAP’s 30 brand new met stations as well as a demonstration of a root camera and rainfall simulator. Finally, they were treated to a mobile demonstration of CHAP’s LED crop production facility.
One participant said afterwards ‘ I was inspired by the enthusiasm and overall optimism John Chinn had for the agricultural sector. I was interested to see the developments in technology both now and in the future and was pleased to be around other farmers and professionals with similar forward looking attitudes to farm management’.

23rd October

A Chinese delegation from Jilin Agricultural University visited us at Sand Hutton and were given a tour by Director of Science, Professor Rick Mumford from Fera. Here they are inspecting the prototype automated spore detection device and they were also shown what is happening at the site of the new E-flows Mesocosm. Earlier on their tour of the UK they visited a number of different organisations, including Rothamsted, Newcastle University and Syngenta.

13th October

An update from E-Flow Mesocosm lead Scientist Dr Rachel Benstead

Following the completion of the enabling works (new road access, gates fitted, power and data cabling laid), the site of the E-flows mesocosm itself is now under development. The first job is to stabilize the land surface against any movement, which has involved pushing the topsoil out to the edges of the site to create edging bunds, and then to back fill with up to 1m depth of loose stone fill which can be compacted to provide a dry and stable platform for the mesocosm rushes to sit in. Once this is done, the next tasks will be to drill the borehole that will supply the site with water, and form the lagoons that will receive and age the water before it is supplied to the mesocosm rushes. Then things get a bit more technical as the mesocosm rushes themselves are formed against precise drawings to ensure that they flow smoothly. This process also involves fitting a complex drainage system to manage and control the water as it exits the site. Of course there are a multitude of additional tasks that need to be completed before the mesocosms can be used for experimental work, and will we will keep you updated on what is happening as the work progresses.

11th October

Open to All

Speaking in front of a packed audience at the Game Changing Technologies for Agriculture event in London, Chairman, John Chinn stressed that CHAP welcomes anyone who has an interest in Agri-Tech.


5th October

CHAP E-Flows Mesocosm takes shape

Levelling Stone

Site from Access Road

4th October

Another important milestone for CHAP

Chetan Parmar signs the Cranfield-CHAP asset management and the equipment user and access agreement. This is big news for CHAP as it will allow full use of the unique Soil Health Facilities located at Cranfield. Discussions with CHAP Founder Partners and other industrial partners are already underway to identify how the facilities can be used to fulfil their business needs.
The contract for the first CHAP project was also signed to commission and demonstrate the full capacity of these facilities, test the integration of various pieces of equipment, and establish data collection and handling protocols. This project will demonstrate a proof of concept of (i) using crops to bioengineer soils with deep compacted layers, (ii) the effect of rainfall intensity and soil surface sealing on seedling establishment, and (iii) contamination of salad leaves by rain-splash soil detachment. We are awaiting the delivery of 80 tonnes of soil which is just an indication of the scale of the work we can undertake at these facilities.

25th September

Latest developments at CABI in Egham

CHAP Chairman, John Chinn and CEO Chetan Parmar, visit the CABI team in Egham where Curator Matt Ryan explains the progress scientists are making around biopesticide development as well as the exciting work CABi is doing in developing the reference collection.

They were also shown Alexander Fleming’s original sample specimen of penicillin!

20th September

Overrun with Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle larvae? Send CHAP your samples

Inspired by previous work conducted at Rothamsted research, we are currently investigating the efficiency of pyrethroid pesticides on larvae of the Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (Psylliodes chrysocephala), a major insect pest of members in the Brassica family (including Oilseed rape). This project is being conducted in collaboration with consortium partners at FERA, and asks whether or not larval resistance to pyrethroids is linked to known modifications in the sequence of the gene encoding the protein target of the pesticide, and/or to heightened metabolic processes in the insect that could reduce efficiency of the control agent. Identifying such genetic changes in resistant larvae will help us understand if pyrethroids are effective at managing Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle larvae.
We have so far analysed numerous insect samples that were collected from various regions of England during the 2016/2017 growing season, however, to enable us to better associate particular genetic traits with pyrethroid resistance, we are planning on collecting more samples from across the UK in the upcoming season. We are very keen to talk to growers of Oilseed rape and other brassica plants, to discuss the possibility of being sent samples of stems infected with Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle larvae, or indeed us being able to visit your farm to collect samples.

13th September

Industry Day at Brandon Hall Hotel, Coventry

We had a hugely successful Industry Day with 25 companies represented from across the agriculture sector. It was a very important day for CHAP because it helped us better understand the problems facing our industry and this, in turn, will inform our thinking for future projects. Four themes emerged from the day – sustainable production of Oilseed rape; Reducing the impact of grass weeds; reducing the impact of cereal disease; increasing the control of insect pests. Out of these some very exciting new project ideas were born. There was a real buzz amongst the delegates about what CHAP can do and its vision for the future. CHAP is absolutely committed to following up and will be taking the ideas forward for funding opportunities. This is very much the start of a journey where the main benefactor will be UK farming and UK Plc. .

CHAP’s 15 Grand Challenges

Work has started on the £3.6m E-flows Mesocosm – A Unique Platform for Higher Tier Risk Assessment of Novel Plant Protection Products

As new Plant Protection Products are developed, there is a need to ensure that they are safe for the aquatic environment.  The new E-Flows mesocosm provides a unique test-bed to demonstrate this.  Chap have created 60 realistic streams, each up to two metres wide and ten metres long, each having a continuous matched supply of aged fresh water, and all being independent of each other.  This provides a facility that is a realistic, but closely controlled, facsimile of edge-of-field surface waters that can be exposed to novel Products in a real-world scenario to ensure the safety of our aquatic habitats.

Each 10m experimental unit has a base volume of up to 4000 litres, and for the first time, can be supplied with non-recirculated, fully flow through freshwater at any rate up to five litres per minute per unit.  This means that the E-flows facility as a whole can handle up to 400 cubic metres of water per day – that’s over an Olympic sized swimming pool every week!  All waste water can be treated though a purpose built tertiary treatment prior to release.

The flow can be varied independently in each stream unit, so that they can be slow flowing, like ditches, or even almost still, like ponds.  The biota established in each unit will be in accordance with the type of habitat being simulated.  This will minimise the stress to the organisms that can occur in artificial habitats.  Also, the variable retention time that is controlled by the flow regime, means that exposures can be pulsed in a way that is very close to that models predict will occur in real edge-of-field waterbodies after rainfall events and from drain flows etc.

The E-Flows mesocosm will be available for risk assessment projects such as these, or any other research projects involving impacts or effects on lowland aquatic habitats from spring 2018 onwards.

Please contact Rachel Benstead Rachel.Benstead@fera.co.uk

Our new Crop Monitoring Technology is already gathering data

The first phase of the installation of monitoring equipment for the CHAP SMART Decision Support Unit has now been completed. A team from Weather Innovations Consulting LP (WIN) flew in from Canada on the morning of Thursday 27th July and, alongside their colleagues from the UK, have travelled the length and breadth of England (Dorset to Northumberland) over the last two weeks to install weather stations at 21 of the 30 monitoring locations.

The first station in the network was installed at Fera on 28th July 2017. Powered by a solar panel, the station comprises sensors for temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, solar radiation, leaf wetness, soil temperature and soil moisture.  Measurements taken every 15 minutes are reported via the mobile phone network to a central data hub managed by WIN in Chatham, Ontario (Canada) where all data undergo a rigorous quality assurance and validation protocol before being communicated to the data systems supporting the SMART Decision Support Unit.

Each of the 21 sites now has a fully automated weather station, a spore trap and a range of insect monitoring equipment to support the crop monitoring work, which will commence in September 2017 to collect data for development and reporting of risk forecasts for pests and diseases.  All 21 stations are already reporting to the hub and the work to incorporate the validated data feed into the new decision support platform will start in the week beginning 14th August.

A second phase of met station installations will take place at a further nine sites over the next few weeks. The nine stations for these sites have been fully assembled and erected at Fera in preparation for their deployment in time for monitoring to begin in September.

In total there will be 29 winter wheat, 26 barley and 25 oilseed rape trials in the monitoring network, hosted by a range of partner organisations including Frontier, AHDB, Agrii, ADAS, Fera, Bayer Crop Science and Newcastle University, which will be used to monitor pests and diseases in untreated plots of winter wheat, winter barley and winter oilseed rape.

The first demo version of the new website services will be released at the end of October at www.cropmonitor.co.uk (currently displaying the original format website).

A Farmer’s Perspective – David Watson, Cockle Park Farm, Northumberland

As the website states – “CHAP unites industry and research partners to translate and apply science and new technology into practice as quickly as possible in the field”. So I think my question is a fair one and to date I can say that have not been disappointed. There is a clear grasp of the challenges facing arable farmers and the solutions that are being established are not only mind-blowing, but also enable farmers and agronomists to tackle some of the real life day to day issues that we have.

Whether it be using precision farming techniques to best effect, crop varietal performance evaluated to D.N.A. level or the genuinely exciting world of agri –diagnostics the project is working to come up with real world solutions that can be exploited at farm level. Testing for blackgrass resistance using a simple 10 minute test gives a yes or no answer to a question that previously took months to answer. A similar test for latent septoria in cereal crops allows the selection of fungicides based on prevalence. You might think that a broad spectrum fungicide would tackle septoria in any case, but with pressure on fungicide products and the likely withdrawal of many the tools we have in our armoury, this will increase the need to select the right product at the right rate to do the job and avoid the development of fungicide resistance.

I have often joked that contribution to agriculture of the increased popularity of U.A.V. (drone) was taking more artistic aerial photos of the combine, however equipped with the correct imaging devices and the ability to interpret the gathered data can greatly improve our understanding of crop agronomy over a full growing season from the more obvious things such as crop nutrition right across to the less obvious such as lodging susceptibility and accurate yield and quality predictions.

CHAP has funded 4 mobile laboratories that can go out into the field to carry out their work, so rather than taking samples to lab the lab comes to the field and this also helps the farmer to connect with the researcher and this is vital if future research projects are to be correctly targeted. These multi – modal vehicle also double as Knowledge Transfer units so if you see the white caravans at field days, shows (such as Cereals & Crop Tec) and other events call round and see what CHAP can do for you.

28th July

Work starts on CHAP SMART Decision Support Unit

The installation of monitoring equipment for the CHAP SMART Decision Support Unit has begun, with 30 monitoring sites due to be set up within the next four weeks. A team from Weather Innovations Ltd have flown in from Canada and will travel the country over the next two weeks alongside their colleagues from the UK to install the met station equipment. Each site will receive a fully automated weather station, a spore trap and a range of insect monitoring equipment to support the crop monitoring work, which will commence in September to collect data for development of risk forecasts for pests and diseases of wheat, barley and oilseed rape. The first weather station was assembled at Fera in Sand Hutton on Friday and installed next to the Fera crop plots.

For more information please contact Dr Judith Turner – Judith.turner@fera.co.uk

17th – 20th July

European Conference on Precision Agriculture in Edinburgh

The CHAP mobile lab was available for delegates to look around along with demonstrations of diagnostic and precision agriculture equipment.  This technology is available for researchers to use in collaboration with Newcastle University via it’s NU-Farms Innovation Platform and other Crop Health and Protection partners.

For more information contact Steve Hall  steven.hall@newcastle.ac.uk

11th – 13th July

Great Yorkshire Show

CHAP was represented by Stockbridge Technology Centre at the annual Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. There was much interest in Stockbridge’s LED lighting for crop production in both glasshouse and closed buildings. Interest in this technology continues to grow worldwide as it has the potential to help address key issues around population growth, climate change & food security. Anyone interested should either contact CHAP enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk or Dr Phill Davis at STC phillip.davis@stc-nyorks.co.uk  for further information.

5th July

Launch of CHAP laboratories and trailers at Cockle Park Farm, Newcastle

Lord Curry of Kirkharle did the honours at the official launch accompanied by Professor Rob Edwards (CHAP) and the Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, Professor Christopher Dale. These state of the art laboratories on a real farm will enable farmers to engage with the scientific process of diagnostics and solutions in an environment they are used to.

“Courtesy: Newcastle University and Jim McAdam”

Tuesday 27th June

Workshop for CHAP scientists

CHAP partners meet at Cranfield University to share their knowledge and expertise to create collaborative projects which will benefit farmers and growers.

14th / 15th June

CHAP shows off its technology

CHAP out in force at the prestigious annual Cereal events in Lincolnshire.

Thursday 8th June

Cereals and Oilseeds Open Day at Stockbridge Technology Centre

Over 500 visitors (mostly farmers) attended the annual Cereals Open Day at STC near Selby, organised by Bayer CropScience and AHDB. It included tours around the extensive trial plots. Dr Martin McPherson from Stockbridge said that ‘ the visitors were delighted to have had the opportunity to see, first hand, a range of new varieties of crop protection treatments. It will give them an insight into what is available’.

CHAP also attended and showcased the lab-to-field demonstration trailers and precision equipment including a GPS enabled strip till & sprayer (available for hire) secured through Innovate funding during 2016. For more information please contact either CHAP via email at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk or contact Dr Martin McPherson, STC directly (martinmcpherson@stc-nyorks.co.uk).

Tuesday 23rd May

CABI wins a Gold at Chelsea

One of CHAP’s founder partners, CABI, has won a Gold medal at the Chelsea Flower show. It was their first ever solo exhibit – an educational display entitled Nature v Invader. It looked at natural solutions to invasive plant problems, and displays some of the UK’s most invasive alien weeds including Japanese knotweed.

Wednesday 5th April

A delegation from the Sub Saharan African countries, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Sudan visited CHAP in Sand Hutton. They wanted to know more about how agri-tech in the UK could be used in their home countries.

Martin McPherson welcomed them to the Stockbridge Technology Centre. The delegation was particularly interested in the use of LED lighting for crop production.

Monday March 20th

CHAP Chairman, John Chinn, addresses the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament.  He told his audience that, according to the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, without crop protection tools farmers could lose as much as 80% of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant diseases. He stressed that ‘in order to produce more food at affordable prices whilst maintaining our ecosystems and the services that they provide, we must collectively embrace innovation and construct our policies accordingly’.

John Chinn Speech

For the full agri-tech report by Anthea MacIntyre see here.