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WheatScan – reducing the costs of milling wheat nitrogen applications

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The £250K Agri-Tech Catalyst WheatScan project aims to reduce the financial and environmental costs of milling wheat production by developing an in-field sensor that can measure the protein content of young wheat ears and provide farmers with an estimate of the final protein content of their grain quickly and without the need to go to a laboratory.

WheatScan – reducing the costs of milling wheat nitrogen applications

Nitrogen fertiliser is the primary input cost in milling wheat production and can account for up to 80% of its carbon footprint.  The required nitrogen input of milling wheat is higher than that of feed wheat as the grain needs to reach a threshold protein content of 13%. To reach this target, it is common practise that milling wheat farmers apply an additional foliar nitrogen application in late June or early July.

Methods have now been developed to predict the final protein content of grain by sampling young wheat ears, and measuring protein content using a laboratory based analysis.  However, this still requires the collection of samples from the field and transport to the laboratory for the analysis.

The £250K Agri-Tech Catalyst WheatScan project involving ADAS, the University of Manchester and Sainsbury’s aims to streamline this method by removing the laboratory element. The development of a new, non-invasive and non-destructive, technology to sense for young wheat ear protein content in the field will allow farmers to better understand their crops’ current nitrogen status and therefore be able to determine how much (if any) late nitrogen is required.

For more information on the project including a video, check out the Agri-Tech Strategy Blog.

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