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Transferring new concepts into practice to improve the competitiveness of UK wheat producers

HGCA PROJECT REPORT 292 

Transferring New Concepts into Practice to Improve the Competitiveness of UK Wheat Producers



by

D Parish1, R Sylvester-Bradley1, J Spink2, W S Clark1, R Clare2

1ADAS Boxworth, Battlegate Road, Boxworth, Cambridge, CB3 8NN
2ADAS Rosemaund, Preston Wynne, Herefordshire, HR1 3PG

OCTOBER 2002

Abstract

Wheat production in the UK is intensive; its competitiveness depends on exploiting a climate that is conducive to growth with highly developed technology.  Large increases in productivity have been due to improvements in plant breeding, pesticides and plant nutrition.  However, it has proved difficult to resolve how best to use these technologies.

The physical environment for wheat growth in the UK is extremely variable, both in terms of the weather and soils. Crop growth is consequently variable leading to difficulties in optimising husbandry treatments.  DEFRA and HGCA have recently been funding research programmes into the interpretation of differences in crop growth: one outcome has been a concept of 'canopy management' to optimise photosynthesis.

In order to maintain and improve the competitiveness of UK wheat production it is essential that the findings from this research are transferred effectively into farm practice.  The comprehensiveness of canopy management (it covers variety choice, nitrogen nutrition, seed rate and sowing management, lodging avoidance and disease control) dictates that the transfer must effect an ability to reason through crop processes; transfer of husbandry instructions for each of the myriad different growing conditions would not be possible.

This project tested a novel two-tier method of technology transfer:

(1)   intensive discussions with and training of selected lead farmers and their advisers, leading to supervised adoption of the new approaches by their businesses, and

(2)   farmer to farmer transfer, with lead farmers being actively involved in the transfer of the new approaches to their neighbours.

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