Latest innovations in crop research presented at European Conference

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Our Crop Physiology team was in Montpellier last week to discuss the different innovative approaches to crop performance at the 12th European Conference on Precision Agriculture. The conference, held bi-annually, brings together innovators behind crop science from across Europe, North and South America, Australia and China to share ideas for the sustainable intensification of crop production.

Four research papers were published and presented including: "Variation across scales indicates that best progress in crop yields should come from farmer-centric research", "Operating Farmer Innovation Groups (FIGs) for testing yield-enhancing ideas using on-farm experimentation", "Understanding intra-field variation in N requirement for oilseed rape”,, and “A multi-disciplinary approach for the precision management of lodging risk”. Summaries can be found below. These papers, along with all the research presented at the conference, are available within the Precision agriculture '19 conference book.

Roger at ECPAVariation across scales indicates that best progress in crop yields should come from farmer-centric research

Presented by Dr Roger Sylvester-Bradley

Crop yields vary enormously, with wheat yields in UK ranging from less than 6 t/ha to more than 16 t/ha. Yet there have been very few studies investigating this variation, seeking to understand the scales and factors that are most important in driving crop performance.

We analysed different wheat yield datasets to partition variation between years, regions, farms, fields, soils, varieties and agronomic factors. We found that variety explains a very modest proportion of the variation (less than 5%), as does soil, region or any given agronomic factor. There seems to be a substantial ‘farmer factor’ which is not ascribable to soil, location or simple inputs. We believe that the fastest progress in understanding and improving crop performance will come from greater investment in farmer-centric agricultural research.

More about farmer-centric research and our ‘Agronomics’ approach can be found on our Agronomics webpage.


Christina at ECPAOperating Farmer Innovation Groups (FIGs) for testing yield-enhancing ideas using on-farm experimentation

Presented by Dr Christina Clarke

ADAS’ Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) has thrown up lots of questions on how yields could be improved on-farm, coming from farmers, researchers and from analysis of the collected dataset. Through an EIP-Agri project, we have organized ‘Farmer Innovation Groups’ (FIGs) to help interested farmers tackle research questions together, facilitated by researchers and industry, using on-farm Line Trials with robust statistical analysis.

The FIGs demonstrate a successful model for engaging farmers in on-farm research to answer meaningful questions with appropriate experiments, measures and analysis for genuine two-way knowledge exchange.

More can be found about FIGs through the YEN website or by contacting Christina Clarke at


Kate at ECPAUnderstanding spatial variation in Nitrogen requirement for oilseed rape 

Presented by Dr Kate Storer

Nitrogen fertilizer can double oilseed rape crop yields but its application can also be responsible for >75% of greenhouse gas emissions in crop production. Optimising N fertiliser rates to meet crop N requirements is therefore important both economically and environmentally.

Spatial experimentation through whole-field ‘chessboard trials’ can help us understand the variation in N requirement within fields and what is driving that variation (crop demand or soil N supply). This enables the best routes for variable rate N applications to be developed and their potential benefits evaluated.

For more information, contact Kate Storer at


Damian at ECPAA multi-disciplinary approach for the precision management of lodging risk

Presented by Damian Hatley

Lodging is the permanent displacement of plant stems from their vertical position. It usually only occurs after flowering but can reduce crop yield significantly and has several knock-on effects. The causes of lodging can be multifaceted, involving many different factors including wind, rain, topography, soil, and the crop itself.

Using the Crop Failure Assessment due to Lodging Loss (CROPFALL), it’s possible to calculate this risk by using land cover, soil type, and meteorological data combined with a mechanistic model of lodging, and crop parameters. Diverse disciplines (wind engineering, geospatial science, and crop agronomy) can be combined to produce a decision support system for farmers to manage lodging risk at a range of scales.

Even modest resulting crop management changes can achieve a large reduction in lodging risk.

For more information on lodging, contact Damian Hatley at


Metrics to analyse the Agronome  

Dr Daniel Kindred

Variation in crop performance is large at all scales, and the number of decision combinations faced by farmers is huge, we calculate it as a quadrillion quadrillion for arable farmers in the UK when species, varieties, cultivation methods, dates, rates and products are considered across the range of possible soil and weather conditions. We are developing the concept of the ‘agronome’ to enable the analysis of the interacting factors affecting crop performance through differences in soils, weather, genetics, pests and husbandry or Genetics x Environment x Management. 

Multiple data streams are becoming available now through smartphones, tractor-mounted sensors, UAVs, satellite imagery and yield mapping which could be turned into consistent sets of parameterized metrics to enable near-complete monitoring of crops in the agronome, and thus the opportunity to better understand & improve crop performance.

For more information on crop sensing and opportunities from connected data in agriculture contact Daniel Kindred at


Increasing the speed and uptake of innovation in the field vegetable and potato sectors: Defining a new approach for delivering cost-effective research (INNO-VEG)

Dr Lizzie Sagoo

The INNO-VEG project is developing innovative methods for carrying out research into field vegetable and potato crops. The project will develop a new protocol for research in the field vegetable and potato sectors which integrates remotely collected crop spatial data and farmer-led approach to research with new statistical methods for spatial data analysis to maximise the value and impact achieved by R&D.

The four-year project began in August 2018 and has received funding from the EU Interreg 2 Seas programme. This year, a programme of 48 field experiments has been set up in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to develop an overarching protocol for integrating crop sensing data into field research methodologies. ADAS leads the project in the UK; the partners are Inagro in Belgium, Delphy in the Netherlands and ARVALIS – Institut du vegetal in France.

For more information contact

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