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.