Together everyone achieves more

I was lucky enough to attend the Agri-Tech East Young Innovators’ Forum ‘Leading Change through Innovation: Tackling the challenges and opportunities of the next decade’ on Friday 23 March at The Morley Agricultural Foundation.

It was a fantastic day where farmers and scientists came together to learn more about what each other does, and to build a link between practical farming and research impact.

I was invited to speak on the importance of translating science into farm practice, and how, at AHDB we are helping farmers to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the next decade. It was clear that communication plays a key part in being able to work together effectively.

Inspiring Farm Excellence

Within AHDB, we are embracing this challenge by combining research outputs and farmer questions when developing our on-farm demonstrations. The AHDB Inspiring Farm Excellence Directory showcases the wide range of inspirational farmers and growers that make up our farm network.

We have just announced our fifth phase of the Monitor Farm programme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These farms join our existing network where groups of likeminded farmers share performance information and best practice to improve their businesses.

In November 2017, we launched our Strategic Farm initiative with the first farm being hosted by Brian Barker near Stowmarket.

Working with the agricultural community within the region, we ran workshops on identifying the challenges they believe the industry will be facing in the next ten years. We then looked at the activities we can do on Brian’s farm to help them develop resilient farms; not only overcoming these challenges but thriving.

The demonstrations carried out across the strategic farms will enable farmers to make informed decisions which are underpinned by research and provide a practical message.

AHDB Strategic Farm planning

When tackling the challenge of translating science onto farms, we recognise that both researchers and farmers are experts, and that by working together the significance of research can be realised by considering the impact on our farmers. The impact could be in terms of cost, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be direct: it could be a benefit to soil health and it might not be an immediate benefit but it could be this year, or next year or even during the lifetime of the farm.

When asked about how to bridge the gap between research and practice in a meaningful way for all parties, I believe that it is about challenging mind-sets. Farmer-participatory trials have gained rapid popularity in the past few years. Conditions on farm are typically less controlled than during research trials and, although challenging, can be overcome by thoughtful design of simple comparisons using a consistent protocol on the most uniform fields.

Regardless of the practicalities of on-farm research, and to return to my first point in this blog, communication and team work is key. We must share and collaborate, whether this is groups of farmers and researchers working together to trial different products and share results, or sharing ideas and experiences.

Get involved with researcher/farmer conversations

The AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds involvement with the Yield Enhancement Network has encouraged Monitor Farm groups, including farmers and agronomists, to develop strategies to increase yield. Read more here on how the Bridgnorth Monitor Farm have been taking advantage of collective knowledge.

AHDB currently sponsors Innovative Farmers, ‘a network of farmers and growers who are running on-farm trials’.

To find out more, and how to get involved, contact your local Knowledge Exchange Manager.

Emily Smith

Emily Smith

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