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.


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’.


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.


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.

26th June 2018

Official Opening of CHAP Soil Health Unit by Chairman of PepsiCo

CHAP Chairman, John Chinn and CEO, Fraser Black attended the official opening of our Soil Health facility and the Plant Phenotyping unit, owned by our sister Centre, Agri-Epi at Cranfield University. The guest of honour was Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive of PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies. Mrs Nooyi is the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, Pepsico’s commitment to delivering sustained growth with a focus on making healthier products, protecting our planet and empowering people. The soil health unit is unique in allowing precision control and monitoring of soil, water, crop and climate  conditions under a range of tillage operations. Mrs Nooyi was welcomed and given a tour of the facilities by Professor Leon Terry, Director of Environment and agri-food at Cranfield University.

25th June 2018

Diseased, sprouting, rotten or any other quality issue with your crops?

CHAP has the solution. Our crop stores at Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire provides experimental facilities to establish the optimum storage conditions for your crops post-harvest to ensure the best possible quality.

CHAP has ten state of the art stores hosted by AHDB Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research available for a range of crops including potatoes, onions and beetroot. They are temperature and relative humidity controlled and monitor carbon dioxide and oxygen levels to ensure that the crops can be stored for months on end maintaining top quality throughout. There are also ancillary services on site to detect and quantify disease levels so that preventative action can be taken to minimise disease development. The Unit also carries out chemical testing for efficacy of disease and sprout control.

If you would like more information contact Adrian.cunnington@ahdb.org.uk

19th-21st June 2018

CHAP Innovation Director addresses packed audience in Canada

Innovation Director, Ruth Bastow, represented CHAP at the Global Business Accelerator Conference in Canada. Innovate UK brought together 15 UK companies and the Agritech centres for a four day visit to Saskatoon and Toronto to work with the National Research Council Canada, Global Institute for Food Security, BioEnterprise and numerous Canadian Research Institutes to promote Canadian/UK collaboration in R&D and business growth across the Agri-tech Sector. During the visit Ruth was invited to speak to a packed audience to explain how our technologies aim to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability across agricultural.

You can find more about the GIFS conference http://conference.gifs.ca/

20th June 2018

Commissioning work on the E-Flows is underway

In the final stages of the E-Flows mesocosm, developed in partnership between Fera and CHAP, the flow through pumps are being tested on all the rushes. The E-Flows, the first of its kind in Europe, will perform simulations of natural aquatic environments under controlled conditions. As plant protection 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 bodes and the potential effects they may have on the organisms in them.

Plumbing work on the water treatment works has still to be completed as the builders fit the dosing pumps and housings, finish the gates and start a final tidy up. Once the flow through has been running well, Dr Rachel Benstead, the lead scientist, and the team, will be moving the plants from their nursery positions into their final positions.

Once the commissioning work is complete, the E-Flows will be available for use by the agri-tech industry and researchers and we expect to see many large research and development projects undertaken here. 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,

For more information contact CHAP@enquiries.co.uk

13th June 2018

CHAP’s trailer used to launch black grass resistance kit

CHAP’s trailer was the perfect vehicle from which to launch a new black grass resistance testing kit at Cereals 2018.
Yield loss due to black grass is estimated to cost UK farming an estimated £0.5billion per year and its control is one of the biggest problems faced by the arable sector. Work funded by the BBSRC in Rob Edwards research group at Newcastle University (one of CHAPs core members) led to the discovery of a protein (AmGSTF1) that is produced in larger amounts in black grass plants exhibiting resistance to multiple classes of herbicide. The resistance mechanism is also known as non-target site resistance and its increasing prevalence in weed populations is causing significant losses to UK farmers, as they struggle to achieve control using conventional methods.
This fundamental research led to a collaboration between Newcastle University and a diagnostics company Mologic to develop an in-field diagnostic test that could be used by farmers and agronomists to test the resistance status of plants in the field. The test is based on the same principle as a pregnancy testing kit, enabling users to measure the levels of AmGSTF1 within the plants in a couple of minutes, compared with the weeks/months required for laboratory testing. The increased speed and ease of use helps farmers to make quicker and more informed decisions about the methods they use to control this damaging weed.
The black grass resistance diagnostic (BReD) was launched at Cereals 2018 on the CHAP stand and is now available to purchase direct from the manufacturer at www.mologic-bred.co.uk/.

13th -14th June 2018

CHAP out in force at Cereals 2018

CHAP Partners joined forces for two successful days at Cereals in Cambridgeshire this week. The Newcastle team launched its Blackgrass resistance test kit to enable farmers to make instant diagnosis without the need to send samples away. There was much interest in Crop Monitor Pro which provides a national surveillance and risk forecasting services to warn of risks from crop pathogens and pests to allow farmers to make effective decisions according to their specific needs. Fera Scientists were on standby to answer questions about the newly built E-Flows mescosm, an edge of field water assessment facility, to allow environmental testing of plant protection products to meet regulatory standards.

31st May 2018

New potato disease risk module launched on Crop Monitor 

A new module delivering outputs on disease risks from late blight in potato crops has been launched on CropMonitorTM using a new bespoke blight forecasting model (BLEWS- Bright early warning System). The prediction models are accessing data from over 100 weather stations across England and Wales and will be supported by a participatory surveillance network which will be reporting first sightings of late blight in crops across the country.

This launch follows previous updates to CropmonitorTM including real-time surveillance data for pests and diseases of wheat, barley and oilseed rape and risk predictions for wheat pests and diseases. Currently, users can access regional risk predictions for wheat and potato pests and diseases as a free service. Local risk predictions will be available in 2019 when the subscription service is launched but until then local risk predictions for Sand Hutton, York (HQ for CHAP) are available as a demonstration so that users can view the range of prediction outputs available at the local scale. The website can be accessed at www.cropmonitor.co.uk and two Basis points are available to any users who sign up to receive free email alerts.

28th May 2018

CHAP trailer wins an award

CHAP/NFU trailer wins a special award for the best stand at the well attended Northumbria County Show at the Bank Holliday. Here they are receiving their prize from Lord Curry of Kirhharle, British farmer and businessman. Congratulations!

22nd May 2018

Two Centres get together to showcase Cranfield

CHAP and Agri-Epi hosted a BBSRC Seedling Catalyst Event at Cranfield University. The aim of the day was to showcase the Cranfield based facilities of the two Centres for soil health, precision agriculture, food storage, water management and satellite to seed. It was a successful day and included talks on CHAP/Agri-Epi and Cranfield University soil health and plant phenotyping facilities from Prof. Ron Corstanje, Prof. Wilfred Otten, Dr Lynda Deeks and Dr Boris Snapir. Visitors were then given a tour of the site.

21st May 2018

The E_Flows Water Treatment Centre is installed

The water treatment centre will ensure that any water from the mesocosm experiments can be thoroughly cleaned before it is discharged into the local water course. The E_flows mesocosm, which is almost ready for commissioning, will be used to test new Agri-chemical products to assess their impact on the natural environment. Some trials will be using chemicals which will need to be taken our of the water before it can be re-used or released.

You can find here more information about the mesocosm.

15th May 2018

The CHAP E-flows sparks much interest in Rome

Senior scientist, Dr Rachel Benstead, delivers a talk about  the assessment of key drivers in the aquatic environment at the SETAC Chemical Regulation Conference in Rome today. It sparked much interest amongst the international audience of leading chemical companies who have been following up with Rachel at the Fera/CHAP stand for further information. The E-Flows is now near completion. The plants are expected to arrive on site soon so that the final stages can begin.

You can find here more information about the mesocosm.

1st May 2018

If you are a potato grower – we need your help.

CHAP and Fera are pleased to announce that CropMonitor will be launching a new pest and disease risk forecasting service for potatoes in May. We are looking for volunteers to be part of a network of surveillance to report appearance of first symptoms in crops. Data will be collected from registered users via a mobile phone during the decision period for potato blight disease management. All data will be plotted in real-time on a map of the UK.

This new service is part of Fera’s CropMonitor platform (www.cropmonitor.co.uk) which. with direct support from CHAP,  is being extended and updated to form the core platform for a new national capability in decision support. The new service will deliver risk forecasts for pests and diseases of potato (launched in May), wheat, barley, oilseed rape using a bespoke weather monitoring network, national pest and disease surveillance data and advanced risk models.

The following information will be collected:

  • Date
  • Location (GPS)
  • Crop growth stage
  • Presence/absence of late blight symptoms
  • Date of commencement of spraying
  • Once a field is reported to be showing symptoms then no further reports will be required.

This new service will be available alongside the Fight Against Blight project (FAB, funded by AHDB Potatoes and managed by Fera). The additional activity is necessary because FAB does not currently collect negative findings, information which is critical to the validation of the SMART blight forecasting service, . The CHAP network will complement and extend the FAB network during 2018 with potential for a closer integration of the two initiatives in future years. CropMonitor will initially provide a forecast based on an existing blight risk model but the forecasting capability will be refined using the improved weather feed and disease modelling capability of the SMART platform.

To join the participatory network and for more information please contact cropmonitor@fera.co.uk. To keep up to date on developments with CropMonitor please visit the website and register for text or email updates (www.cropmonitor.co.uk).

26th April 2018

Yorkshire farmers inspect CHAP facilities

A group of Yorkshire farmers reacted enthusiastically to their tour of CHAP facilities at Sand Hutton saying they had learnt a great deal and had been given a lot to think about. They are seen here with Fera scientist, Sioban Ostoja-Starzewska, who is showing them how the mobile laboratories can be used by farmers, growers and agronomists who want to find solutions to specific crop health problems such as the chemical resistance to weeds, funghi or pests or general tests on soil health. This comes with on the spot advice on the best treatment solutions. They were also shown the e-flows mesocosm for the environmental testing of plant protection products which comes on stream soon.


23rd April 2018

New e-Plant Clinic Video

CABI have launched a new film highlighting the success of their international plant clinics which are supported by CHAP funded ipads.

18th April 2018

Giving evidence to the EFRA Select Committee

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black, told the EFRA Select Committee that he welcomed the new emphasis on applied technology but the best way to ensure the uptake of new technologies was to focus on pioneer farmers. Fraser said the Centre was planning to work through a number of demonstration farms where the new technologies could be tried and tested to show that they work so that other farmers would follow suit. He said that if the top farmers could show the benefits then medium farmers would be more willing to

adopt new practices. He also said that farmers would benefit from free independent advice which would mean smaller farmers could find out what worked best. The session focussed on the efficiency of UK agriculture, productivity and what more the government could be doing to support farmers.

You can listen to the session here: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/42f87337-5ddf-4227-9b6d-8519224732dd

16th April 2018

Guided tours of CHAP’s facilities by chief scientists 

CHAP is producing a series of films about all our capabilities, to show farmers, growers, agronomists, breeders and anyone else with an interest in agri-tech what our facilities can offer.  The first two films highlight the CHAP soil health facilities at Cranfield University and CHAP’s Fine Phenotyping and Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Rothamsted.

16th April 2018

Mesocosm update

There are now just six weeks until the completion of the works on the Mesocosm.  Here you can see the filling in of the walkways between the 60 rushes. With the average experiment requiring access to 20-30  (according to EFSA Guidance), the E-flows Mesocosm facility will have the capacity to support 2-3 independent concurrent experiments, reducing the waiting time for users. More information about the Mesocosm.

13th April 2018

CHAP’s Deep Water Hydrophonic facility springs into action

The first crop trial run through CHAP’s Deep Water Hydroponic facility at STC has been a huge success.  As part of AHDB’s SCEPTREplus project, lettuce plants were grown in hydroponic tanks and exposed to a disease that effects the plant roots.  An effective treatment was applied to one group of plants and the root growth was then compared between treated and non-treated plants. The difference in growth was immediately noticeable when STC and CHAP staff reviewed the trial this week.

13th April 2018

UK Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation unveil shared vision online

The UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres have come together as one voice to showcase their commitment to positioning the UK sector as a global leader in sustainable food production. A new website  has been launched summarising the vision, aims and achievements of the four Centres. In line with the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy to Create a Better Britain, the four Centres are positioned to provide the expertise, infrastructure and commitment to deliver innovation and new growth for the UK agrifood sector.

Each Centre has its own unique focus and purpose:

  • CHAP is fundamentally changing the way plant disease and pest threats are managed
  • CIEL is driving new industry-led research to deliver sustainable animal production
  • Agri EPI is accelerating the uptake of precision engineering solutions
  • Agrimetrics is harnessing data to identify new agrifood solutions outside the scope of traditional thinking.

“It’s important that each Centre focusses on their specific objectives, but also, that they work together to address some of our most pressing food challenges that no one Centre can address alone,” says Innovate UK’s Calum Murray.

This new website provides new and existing audiences alike with an inspiring and compelling summary of why the Agri-Tech Centres are so important to UK food and farming – and what each Centre sets out to deliver.

Discover more about the vision, aims and impacts of the Agri-Tech Centres at www.agritechcentres.com

4th April 2018

Getting there… CHAP’s Biopesticides Facility is nearly ready for use.

The CHAP Biopesticides Facility based at STC is now only weeks away from running projects through its bespoke glasshouse unit (see picture). Work is already underway in a separate area of the site utilising the facility’s deep water hydroponics tanks, with completion of the glasshouse itself representing the final phase in creation of a one-stop-shop for indoor and outdoor biopesticide trials. Linking to other CHAP facilities across the country, designed for earlier stage biopesticide discovery projects and more robust exotoxicology trials, CHAP can now offer a full suite of resources to assist the rapidly expanding biopesticides industry in design and development of the next generation of crop protection products.

26th March 2018

Mesocosm Update

Building work continues on the CHAP mesocosm based at Sand Hutton near York.  The concreting of the rushes has been completed along with the fitting of electrics and water monitoring controls.  The lagoon drainage and lining is also in place and the pump station housings have arrived on site.  All in all a very exciting time during the development of the £4m e-flows mesocosm facility. This will be Europe’s most advanced edge-of-field water assessment facility which will enable environmental testing of plant protection products to meet the most stringent regulatory standards.  Read more …

21st March 2018

Four agri-tech centres come together at Harper Adams

All CHAP Partners were represented at the Innovate UK ‘show and tell’ agri-tech event at Harper Adams today. More than one hundred industry players queued up to inspect CHAP’s state of the art technologies. Scientists were on hand to explain more about what they do and how they can be used in collaboration with other partners. It was the first time that the four agri-tech centres had come together under one roof to show off their collection of technologies and, most importantly, how they interact and work with each other. After the event CHAP Chairman, John Chinn, said “ What made my day was so many of our guests describing the day as ‘exciting’ and ‘having a real buzz’. I feel really proud to be part of CHAP, as we move from asset building to transforming food production practice – through research work utilising our scientists’ brains and our great facilities”.

16th March 2018

CHAP’s brand new Fine Phenotyping Unit is up and running

Multi-spectral imaging of a strawberry in the CHAP Fine Phenotyping Unit at Rothamsted is being used to detect the early signs of rot (shown in orange). Using our VideometerLab imager we can define the specific optical characteristics of fruit deterioration for SMEs interested in using imaging to automate produce picking /sorting. Read more.

12th March 2018

CHAP funding helps plant doctors work efficiently in Nepal

Plant clinics taking place in Nepal have been enhanced using CHAP funded tablets to capture information about crop diseases. A trained plant doctor is pictured here using one of the CHAP tablets in Nepal, improving the efficiency of the clinic and speeding up the recording and validation of pests and diseases. Read more …

9th March 2018

CHAP’s soil unit story is told on film

Professor Jane Rickson from Cranfield University tells the CHAP soil unit story on film highlighting what the state of the art facilities can do to help farmers, growers and agronomists deal with a multitude of soil based issues. The facility offers precision control and monitoring of soil, water crop and climate conditions under a range of tillage conditions. It addresses industry’s key concerns around maximising the potential of soil; control of blackgrass; use of cover crops to improve crop health; and testing emerging smart technologies. Read more …

8th March 2018

First trial underway at the new CHAP hydroponic facility at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC)

View of the first trial in the new CHAP hydroponic facility at STC. It shows a newly planted lettuce trial to explore the potential of novel chemicals and biopesticides for root-rot control in hydroponic lettuce, funded by AHDB through SCEPTREplus. This facility is a stand-alone unit (10×6 independent tank replicated facility) that can be moved into the new biopesticide facility, if needed.

28th February 2018

Technology is the way forward for agriculture says APPG Chair

At the APPG on Science and Technology event in Parliament in Parliament today Chairman, Julian Sturdy, said that the industry is facing interesting but difficult times ahead. He said that Brexit would present us with huge opportunities in the global market, but there needs to be a technological revolution to meet the challenges and to catch up with other countries which are ahead of us in productivity. He stressed that innovation, science and technology must lead the way. Also speaking at the event AHDB’s Chief Strategy Officer, Tom Hinds, said that we need to have more coordination in the industry’s knowledge exchange and ensure that the next generation has the right skills and training for the future. For the NFU, Dr Helen Ferrier said that the recently announced Industrial Challenge Fund will provide an opportunity to reset and widen the agri-tech strategy to be more inclusive so that we can really transform farming for the future.

23rd February 2018

Mesocosm Update

Progress on the Mesocosm build is progressing well despite the winter weather which has meant extra drainage systems have needed to be installed to keep the site dry. The main contractor Viridian has now set out the wooden moulds for all 30 of the mesocosm rushes, and started pouring the concrete that will form each 10 metre long section. The Borehole to provide water has been drilled and the lagoons which will hold the water to allow it to naturalise have now been constructed. Water will be circulated between the rushes through a series of three different pumping systems which have all been installed and will eventually be buried beneath the site. Work on constructing water treatment plant area has started and the activated carbon treatment vessels will be delivered in March before the site his handed over to the biology team for planting.

22nd February 2018

Progress in CHAP’s new LED vertical farm at Stockbridge Technology Centre continues at pace 

The new polished concrete floor is complete and the insulated panels for the growth chambers are now being installed. Read more …

20th February 2018

CHAP’s trailers go down well with growers and agronomists in Sussex

A joint Vitismart/CHAP grower day using the lab-to-field trailers and on board equipment was well attended at Plumpton College in Sussex. We were able to demonstrate how our technology can predict diseases using our smart surveillance approaches in vineyards.  Altogether there were 40 growers/vineyard managers/agronomists at the event. They were able to see for themselves how linking spore sampling with rapid infield testing using the Genie III system could help growers better control mildew and botrytis in their crops.  Read more

20th February 2018

First trial up and running at CHAP’s soil health facility at Cranfield University 

Cover crops and tomato plants are now growing fast in the soil health facility where soil physical properties and climate conditions are controlled in realistic pilot scale systems. This will allow for soil type – crop – tillage – climate interactions to be optimised under realistic scenarios as encountered in the field and over multiple seasons. In this first trial in these new facilities, plants that differ in root traits are being tested for their ability to cope with soil compaction at depth and to deliver proof of concept that cover crops with different root traits can improve soil conditions. Weighing platforms and moisture sensors allow for automated irrigation and a new soil root camera is used to visualise the root growth in situ and over time, and monitor the way roots respond to compaction and wetness.

16th February 2018

CHAP’s new biopesticide facility at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) is taking shape.

Despite this winter providing less-than-ideal weather conditions for concreting, the foundations for the new CHAP biopesticide facility at STC have successfully been laid. This marks a significant and exciting milestone for the build, with the ‘above-ground’ phase now expected to progress apace in the coming week or so.  Find out more about the biopesticide facility.

13th February 2018

CHAP takes the lead in agriculture sustainability and productivity says key MPs

Three members of the influential EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Select Committee spent a day with CHAP in Sand Hutton near York to see the very latest science and technology being developed to ensure that the ever rising population can be fed better and in a sustainable way.


The three MPs, including Chairman, Neil Parish and local MP. Julian Sturdy, both farmers were taken to see the brand new E_Flows mesocosm, currently under construction and which will enable environmental testing of plant protection products to meet the most stringent regulatory standards; they stopped at one of CHAP’s mobile trailers available to farmers, growers and agronomists for on-farm diagnosis and solutions to crop health problems; they were given a demonstration of a brand new facility being developed at Stockbridge, near Selby, which shows how different technologies in a controlled environment will impact the economics of LED Vertical farming and an introduction to CHAP’s smart technologies and precision machinery. CHAP CEO, Fraser Black, said that he was very encouraged by the engagement shown by the Select Committee and their willingness and eagerness to understand the relevance of what we are doing to improve productivity, thanks to the combination of innovative technology and the best scientific expertise.


After the tour committee chairman, Neil Parish MP said “This has been an incredibly interesting day and given us a lot to think about. It’s all very necessary going forward if we want to make sure that the rising population is better fed. I am certain that CHAP will be at the forefront of this. Julian Sturdy MP for York Outer said “The whole day has been very impressive. It is clear that Fera and CHAP operate at the very forefront of science and technology. Looking at the productivity graph it is clear that the UK is behind other countries, such as the US and some European countries. What we have seen from today means that the UK will be able to compete and catch up.” Sheffield MP, Angela Smith, who is also vice chair of the APPG on Science and Technology in Agriculture also said that she was “hugely impressed and that the productivity gains from these technologies are enormous”.

5th February 2018

CropMonitor extended and updated for 2018 season

The first phase of the new CropMonitor Smart Decision Support Service, part of the Crop Health and Protection Centre (CHAP) has gone live, providing access to live weather data for more than 100 locations across England and weekly updates on pest and disease levels in untreated varieties of oilseed rape.

Dr Judith Turner, senior plant pathologist at CHAP, says: “It is a small step forward in advance of what we will be releasing at the end of March. We thought the oilseed rape monitoring data would be useful to people at the moment.”

Dates for the launch of Crop Monitor’s new services have been announced. Further releases of this free service will include modules delivering live regional risk forecasting for pests and diseases of wheat (March 2018), potatoes (May 2018), oilseed rape (July 2018) and barley (March 2019).

Additional enhancements and decision tools will be introduced from June 2018 onwards and the full subscription services delivering local risk forecasts to assist field-level spray decisions will be launched in September 2019.

All current subscribers will start to receive email alerts from March onwards. If you would like to subscribe for this free service here.

2nd February 2018

Sustainable Soil Management

Congratulations to Rob Simmons from Cranfield University on his excellent article on Sustainable Soil Management  which is now live on Open Access Government. You can view the publication on: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?EID=100e4ef2-b7dd-4f7e-91e2-4484fd9457b7  on P336 or on this link Adjacent Government Sustainable soil management challenges


26th January 2018

The new CHAP LED Centre at Stockbridge starts to take shape

Work on the new CHAP LED Centre at STC is now progressing. The existing building on the site has been dismantled and a new roof is already being installed.  A soon as this is completed, re-cladding will begin and the contractor can then start with the internal layout ensuring 2 growing compartments (5 growing tiers) each with bespoke LED lighting arrays to evaluate the economics of vertical farming, including optimisation of climate management in vertical crop production.


24th January 2018

It’s all happening at Stockbridge Technology Centre

Good progress is being made with the new CHAP biopesticide facility at STC made possible with funding through InnovateUK.  The groundworks have been undertaken  and the contractor is now installing the glasshouse supports or ‘dollies’ ready for the imminent arrival of the new glasshouse in early February.


13th January 2018

Exploring opportunities in Pakstan

Interim CEO, Chetan Parmar visits Pakistan to explore opportunities for collaboration. Here he is with Babar Bajwa (CABi Pakistan), Julian Smith (Fera Science), Sohail Qureshi (Swiss Consulting) at the CABi stand at the Pakistan Horti Expo in Lahore.

They were invited by the Government of Punjab Agriculture Department to attend the inaugural Pakistan Horti Expo 2018. Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world. Pakistan’s main F&V crops are citrus fruits (mandarins); mangoes; potatoes; dates. The country is also the 3rd largest producer of rice. Only a few products are of export quality to the Western markets, such as mangoes and rice, and citrus exports are limited to central Asia due to control conditions. Therefore the Government wants to improve the systems in order to improve international trade but also bring in new crops that can exploit the vast array of climatic regions within the country. There are a number of development projects that the local Government is initiating and the local CABi team will be involving CHAP (and its Partners) as appropriate.

11th January 2018

Latest news from CHAP’s brand new Biopesticide facility at Stockbridge

CHAP’s new CEO, Fraser Black (centre) is given a preview of the new deep raft hydroponics system currently being installed at Stockbridge Technology Centre, near Selby.  The completed system will comprise of 60 independent tanks that will allow replicated trials on a wide range of topics from disease management to developing novel technologies for monitoring and controlling nutrient concentrations. Once commissioned later this month, we will be examining methods for controlling Phytophthora in lettuce crops as part of the SEPTER+ research program.  The system will allow us to solve many of the problems encountered in hydroponic systems and will allow rapid testing of chemical and biological methods for controlling root diseases.  

8th January 2018

Letter from new CEO Fraser Black

I am excited and honoured to have been invited to become the new CHAP CEO at this critical time for the agriculture sector. Today is my first day behind the wheel and I am looking forward to pressing the accelerator and navigating a clear course built on all the hard work that the Board and Executive team have been doing over the past 12 months. I have over 30 years’ commercial experience (sales, marketing, and business and market development) in the Bioscience industry. I have a passion for both the development and adoption of innovation to drive health and wealth and I am absolutely committed to the driving principle behind CHAP, which is that science, technological and process innovation is the key to raising crop productivity through transforming our approach to the management of weeds, pests, diseases, water and soil.

As you will see from our latest newsletter, CHAP has several new and cutting edge capabilities coming on stream this year. This includes the E_flows mesocom, which will provide a unique testbed for agrochemicals and other products, the Soil Unit at Cranfield, the Fine Phenotyping facility at Rothamsted, a new Biopesticide Screening facility and new LED facility at Stockbridge. We will also be working on a number of exciting new projects which we will be taking forward for funding rounds, whilst hosting regular engagement days to identify more opportunities.

I look forward to meeting you during the course of 2018, so that, together, we can make a real difference for farmers, growers and the food industry both at home and abroad.

5th January 2018

60 sumps are being installed for CHAP’s new world-class E-Flows Mesocosm

The January rain and mud has not put off work continuing on the E-flows Mesocom at Sand Hutton. John Topliss from Innovate UK inspects the site with lead scientist Rachel Benstead, Chetan Parmar from CHAP and Lee Maxwell from Veridian. The 60 Mesocosm sumps which are currently being installed will collect the water flowing from each individual experimental unit, and direct it to the appropriate discharge route.  These sumps can also be used for collecting samples of water or drift biota, and can even be used themselves as pond mesocosms in static conditions or at low flows.  The water supplied to the experimental units is drawn from a borehole, which has already been driven to the sand stone aquifer below.  It then passes through five shallow lagoons, which allow the water to age and naturalise for about five days before entering the mesocosm itself.  The CHAP E-flows mesocosm is the first one of its kind to provide fully flow through, field scale streams which can receive pulsed active ingredients and products at the rates predicted to occur in the environment and this will prove invaluable for testing agrochemicals and other products in the future.

4th January 2018

2018 is going to be a great year for CHAP

As soon as the Christmas and the New Year festivities were over, building work began again on CHAP’s brand new E_Flows mesocosm. Construction is due to finish by the end of March and this will be followed by a 12 week commissioning period before being open for business in the Summer. Also coming on stream this year is CHAP’s new multi sensor laboratory at Rothamsted in Hertfordshire. This will measure plant performance as well as the spread and impact of diseases and pests. At Stockbridge Technology Centre, near Selby, CHAP’s Biopesticide facilities are expanding with the development of a new biopesticide testing centre. This is being designed to provide a specialist, but flexible, facility for the independent and comparative evaluation of a wide range of biopesticide & bio-control products under optimum conditions to generate robust data for registration purposes and to showcase their efficacy for industry. CHAP’s soil health facility, currently going through testing will also be available for business in the Spring and will enable pilot scale testing of the interrelationships between soil health, water use and biotic factors such as  pathogens, weeds and roots. This, in turn, will help inform on-farm decision making and the development of more efficient and sustainable methods of food production.

15th December

Work has begun to build a new Biopesticide Facility at Stockbridge Technology Centre.

CHAP’s Biopesticide facilities are expanding with the development of a new biopesticide testing centre at STC in Yorkshire. The first turf has been dug to build a new glasshouse facility dedicated to the independent evaluation of existing & novel biopesticides. The new CHAP capability at STC near Selby, with support from Innovate UK, has been designed to provide a specialist, but flexible, centre for the independent and comparative evaluation of a wide range of biopesticide & bio-control products under optimum conditions to generate robust data for registration purposes and to showcase their efficacy for industry. The state of the art glasshouse will also incorporate a replicated test facility for evaluation of pesticides & biopesticides in deep water hydroponics.

6th December

CHAP on display to senior UK & Chinese Ministers in the Science Academy in London

CHAP had Cranfield’s root camera on display at the People to People (P2P) Dialogue at the Science Academy in London. We were able to show off the soil modules, glass house and growth rooms in a visual presentation to a room packed with senior ministers, scientists and policy makers from the UK and China, including Madame Liu, the Deputy Premier, Minister Jo Johnson and Sir Mark Walport the RCUK CEO designate. The overall purpose of this year’s event is to sign the UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy in which Agri-Tech is currently the flagship challenge for 2018.

1st December

Another gong for Cranfield University

Congratulations to Cranfield University which has won the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize. Cranfield is one of only eight institutions to have won the award on five or more separate occasions. Cranfield received the award for its research and education in large-scale soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources in the UK and worldwide. This is the first time in the Prize’s history that an award has been given for soil science. Professor Leon Terry, Cranfield’s Director of Environment and Agrifood, said: “We are delighted to be the first university to win an award for soil science.  For more than 40 years, Cranfield has been ensuring that practical advice on land use is linked to the protection of soil assets in the national interest. Our information and soils expertise is shared nationally and globally to ensure soil is recognised as a vital resource and as an essential natural capital.”

30th November

We want your Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle Larvae!

Our researchers are currently developing diagnostic techniques to identify pesticide-resistant Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB) populations in the field, along with novel methods of controlling this pest in the future. To achieve these goals, CHAP is looking for volunteers across the UK who grow members of the Brassica family (including Oilseed rape, cabbage and turnip, etc.) that are affected by CSFB, to work with us by sending in plant samples over this year’s growing season.

CHAP has set itself many goals to help improve crop fitness and overall productivity. Two of these goals involve developing novel methods of pest control, and deploying diagnostic techniques to the field that can inform the client of how tolerant or susceptible a pest population is to an active ingredient before a pesticide has been applied to the area. The benefit of these tests is that they can inform the farmers and their agronomists how a pest population will respond to a particular pesticide, enabling you to make informed choices on your management strategy for the growing season.

If you are interested in helping CHAP with this exciting new opportunity to control this pest, we would like to hear from you.

All you need to do is get in touch and we will tell you more. For more information contact Belinda Luke : b.luke@cabi.org  or Kirsty McInnes kirsty.mcinnes@rothamsted.ac.uk

28th November

Let’s get the young interested in agri-tech – By Lynda Burns- Hussein

I had the privilege of representing CHAP at an APPG Science & Technology in Agriculture meeting in Parliament, hosted by local York MP, Julian Sturdy.  The event focused on the outcomes from the recent 2017 Youth Ag-Summit held in Brussels, sponsored by CHAP Founder Partner, Bayer. Three of the four young people, selected to represent the UK and Republic of Ireland at this global conference, were invited to share their observations.

It was possibly the most positive and inspiring event I’ve been to for a long time.  The three speakers were full of energy and enthusiasm about their ideas to use technology in farming by finding tangible and sustainable solutions for production of food and crop health along the summit’s  theme Feeding a Hungry Planet.  They were also very keen to help find the next generation of Agri-tech scientist by engaging young people to consider careers in our field.

I have two keen biologists in my own family, in the shape of my son and niece, who joined me as they are interested in a career in Agri-tech. Hitherto, they have found it hard to find information about how to get started. I was half expecting them – being the age they are- to be bored, but they were genuinely interested in the presentations and were fascinated by the talk of robotic farming, diagnostics and insect protein as a food source.  As it involved environmental issues, sustainability, science, robotics, entrepreneurship and travel, it ticked all the boxes.

Interestingly all the speakers said there was very little information available and believed that it’s important to engage with children and young people at an early age so that they might consider Agri-tech ‘cool’ – their word not mine.  The most striking point for me was that two of the three speakers said they would have preferred to take up an apprenticeship than go to university, but none were available.

Food for thought for CHAP and all of us involved in the agri- tech sector?

24th November

Cranfield takes delivery of 80 tonnes of soil

80 tonnes of soil is being moved into Cranfield’s new state of the art soil health unit. 24 lysimeters will soon be filled using the new soil processor capable of delivering tillage operations ordinarily used in the field. The lysimeters will be moved into the glass house and placed on large balances. The first one has just been placed, weighing 1299.4 kg. The weight data together with soil moisture sensors will guide the automated irrigation system and control soil physical conditions.

23rd November

The Potato Event of the Year – BP2017 in Harrogate

CHAP Partners were out in force at the BP2017 two day event in Harrogate. AHDB was a major sponsor, Frontier, Fera and Bayer all had stands. CHAP’s trailer was also on show for farmers and agronomists who wanted to hear more about real-time in the field tests for gangrene in potatoes, blackgrass and septoria. CHAP has its own booth and an opportunity to speak on both days in the Innovation Hub, alongside KTN. The event, at the Yorkshire showground, was well attended and gave potato growers an opportunity to show off the variety and quality of their potatoes and tech companies – both large and small- an opportunity to demonstrate how their latest technology can help farmers be more productive and efficient.

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.