Innovative Arable Research Strategy Unveiled - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

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December 12, 2013

Innovative Arable Research Strategy Unveiled

Genetics, nutrition and soils, precision agronomy, crop protection and emerging technologies are the central pillars of the innovative five year research strategy unveiled this month to underpin the most significant expansion in applied research, development and technical support for UK farming in more than 20 years.

In a significant first for the agricultural supply industry, the formal plan is designed to focus the multi-million pound national research expansion announced last year by Agrii on plugging the most important agronomic knowledge gaps in cereal, oilseed rape, potato, vegetable and fruit production.

It has been developed by the special R&D Strategy Board established under the independent chairmanship of leading crop scientist, Professor James Burke to guide activities in close co-operation with some of the country’s most respected independent specialists and organisations.

“Right from the start we put impartial research at the heart of the business we’re building from the strong ‘evidence-based’ heritage of Masstock and UAP,” says Agrii head of technology and services, Clare Bend.   “Research designed to provide our 300-plus field staff and their customers with practical agronomic intelligence second-to-none in the industry.

“Our first five-year research plan is based on the extensive national R&D priorities study we conducted with customers and agronomists across the country over the past twelve months.
It refines the wide range of potential study areas identified into a list of more than 50 research projects validated for their contribution to growers’ needs and prioritised by region.

“Increasing the efficiency of production systems and improving product quality and safety with the greatest economic and environmental sustainability is the core purpose of the plan. It builds on the extensive trials programme we already have underway to optimise the performance of current systems and identify new solutions to the most pressing agronomic challenges. Managing risk and volatility and maximising return on investment are central to all its components.”

The five key pillars of the Agrii research strategy involve:

1:    Identifying superior genetics and the best ways of exploiting them through variety-
                   specific agronomy;

2:    Improving crop nutrition and soil management through a better understanding
                   of individual nutrients, their interactions and soil health;

3:    Employing precision agronomy, electronically-driven aids and real-time trials data
                   for more effective crop management and decision-making;

4:    Harnessing the full range of cultural controls alongside agrochemicals for the most
                   integrated and effective crop protection; and,

5:    Exploring the practical value of exciting new nano-science, bio-pesticide and other
                   emerging technologies in crop protection and nutrition.

As well as organising the company’s research into a series of carefully-integrated work programmes for the greatest customer value, the plan sets out the specific internal and external resources required to deliver them and the way this will be done through the developing network of regional Agrii Technology Centres and ifarms.

It allocates extra capital investment and staffing to ensure the class-leading research that is the company’s aim, and establishes systems for continuously monitoring value and re-defining priorities in line with changing customer needs and economic and legislative circumstances.

GROUND- BREAKING

The Agrii strategy is both ground-breaking and much-needed, believes R&D strategy board chairman, James Burke. He commends it as a carefully structured roadmap for bridging the serious gap between scientific discovery and practical application that has developed across the arable industry in recent years.

“Importantly, it does this through quality, statistically-robust investigations work rather than the decidedly less scientific studies that have typified so much agricultural supply industry trial work to date,” he says.

Professor Burke also sees the strategy as being invaluable for the fact that it is entirely driven by the needs of growers and their agronomists. And for its insistence that all projects are validated for their contribution to significantly enhancing grower returns on investment as well as meeting a range of integrated agronomy, environmental sustainability and medioum-term deliverability criteria.

The strategy is an excellent complement to the very welcome Agricultural Technologies Strategy (ATS) published recently by Defra to guide renewed Government investment in agricultural science and technology,” he says.

“There are so many synergies with ATS that I see huge opportunities for the developing Agrii programme to contribute to the wider national goals in co-operation with university and other researchers alongside the company’s own tightly customer-led objectives.”