CHAP Advanced Glasshouse Facility enables consistency in tomato ranking trials of EU accessions

The CHAP Advanced Glasshouse Facility (AGF) at Stockbridge Technology Centre, North Yorkshire, was installed in 2017. Its three compartments are customisable spaces with automated controls as well as other enhancements which make trial designs flexible as well as reliable and repeatable.

Challenge: Tomatoes are produced and consumed all over the world; in 2018, 17.4 million tonnes were grown in Europe alone (European Statistics Handbook, 2019). Due to the high inputs of water and excavated minerals used as fertlisers, more sustainable methods of crop management are required for this crop to lower the current expensive costs of production, while safeguarding natural resources and the environment.

Scientists working on the EU Horizon 2020 project ‘TOMRES’ have been working to produce a variety of such sustainable methodologies for tomato growers and show through scientific trials how production waste and overuse of resources can be minimised without compromising the cash crop. This includes, but is not limited to; grafting, biostimulant applications and also the ranking of tomato varieties based on their ability to perform in regard to plant health, yield and quality, under reduced water and nutrient input management strategies. As part of their role as a project partner, Stockbridge Technology Centre has been running accession ranking trials in the CHAP AGH since 2017.

Study Title: Ranking the TOMRES collection for nutrient and water use efficiency under combined stress in a Northern European Glasshouse Environment.

Methodology: The first two rounds of accessions trials were designed and carried out by Dr David George and Dr Rhydian Beynon-Davies in the CHAP AGF at Stockbridge Technology Centre from 2017-2019.  Two compartments of the CHAP AGF were set up with high-wire infrastructures to mimic a commercial setting; where the customisable space and climatic controls enabled the consistency of synonymous environments which enabled more accessions to be trialled.

In this third and final year, Stephanie Sunley will be testing the four best performers from the ranking trials in more depth and with increased emphasis on demonstration, which will include the use of the Heron automatic light sensor to enable consistent management of water delivery in high temperatures.

Stephanie commented:“the Heron system will enable the constant automatic watering of the rockwool slabs during hot conditions, particularly over days where the trial cannot be personally visited, and the use of the feed rig and Dosatron will permit the delivery of both the commercial feed regime and the reduced nutrient programme simultaneously.”

Conclusion: Overall, the CHAP AGF has allowed the precise, repeatable environmental control of a project where replication of these factors has been and will continue to be key in order to quantify the ranking of tomato accessions.  Dr David George concludes: “In order to run the complex experiments we needed to deliver as part as TOMRES it was essential that we could match our expertise in commercial tomato production and applied trials work with access to a high-spec, flexible and adaptable glasshouse design. The CHAP AGF was the perfect solution for us, allowing us to undertake experiments on more than 30 tomato varieties simultaneously, varying the amounts of irrigation and nutrient provided to each in a controlled, replicated design, while overlaying the sensor technology needed to constantly monitor the crop.

“It also made for the perfect demonstration facility, allowing us to show-off the project to numerous groups at a range of on-site events, while always maintaining high levels of biosecurity for the crop.’

Author: Stephanie Sunley, Assistant Project Manager, Stockbridge Technology Centre,  May 2020.

For more information go to our Advanced Glasshouse Facility capability page or visit Stockbridge Technology Centre.  Further details of the project can be visited on the TOMRES website

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