AFCP Student Forum March 20, 2013
Abstracts of Papers

An investigation into the effect of traffic and tillage on soil properties and
crop yields
Emily Smith Harper Adams University
Agricultural production systems are increasingly characterised by extensive in-field
trafficking of larger and heavier field machinery. The random nature of trafficking,
covering 80-90% of the field area, that is characteristic of commercial practice
inevitably leads to negative impacts on soil, water and crop characteristics.
Emerging technologies and engineering solutions have stimulated a recent shift
towards reduced tillage methods coupled with the development of traffic
management systems, aided by Precision Agriculture. A multidisciplinary long-
term project was established at Harper Adams University College (UK) in October
2011 to investigate the interaction between traffic and tillage on soil, crop and
energy responses in a randomised and replicated study to determine the effects of
Random Traffic Farming, Controlled Traffic Farming and Low Ground Pressure
with conventional, minimum and zero tillage. Results from the first year of this
research will be reported.
Keeping soil in the field; optimising erosion and runoff control from UK row
Joanna Niziolomski Cranfield University
Inappropriate soil and water management, generally caused by a lack of adoptable
and practical options, can lead to accelerated soil erosion. This study,
incorporating both field trials and controlled laboratory experiments, aims to
develop a cost effective and adoptable runoff and erosion management system for
row crops. The permanence of an asparagus stand (10-12 years) lends itself as a
suitable row crop for this study.
In an initial proof of concept study in collaboration with a Herefordshire asparagus
grower (Cobrey Farms), the runoff and erosion control effectiveness of two surface
mulches (composed of cereal straw and PAS 100:2005 compost) were individually
tested against a bare soil control. The mulches were also tested in combination
with shallow soil disturbance. From this proof of concept study further research
using a similar though refined methodology is being conducted to fully optimize
this management option.
Determination of cation exchange capacity through gamma-ray
Edward Carnell Cranfield University
Acquiring fine-scale information on the variation of soil properties through
conventional laboratory techniques is a time consuming and expensive exercise.
Proximal and remote sensors have demonstrated their potential to inexpensively,
rapidly and simultaneously characterise certain soil properties, making the
acquisition of this fine-scale information more viable. At the short wavelength/high
frequency end of the spectrum, gamma (γ)-ray sensors penetrate vegetation cover to capture soil at depth. γ-ray spectrometry works on the basis that different rock types contain varying amounts of terrestrial-radioisotopes, as do the soil profiles to which they weather. In this paper we look at calibrating hyperspectral γ-ray signal to predict cation exchange capacity (CEC). 276 soil samples were collected from Bedfordshire and their full γ-ray spectrometry signals were determined in the laboratory. Smoothing and de-noising of the γ-ray spectra was required to uncover
the relationship with CEC. Good calibrations (R2 = 0.72) of CEC were made
through PLSR with leave-one-out cross-validation and strong independent
predictions made (R2 = 0.66).
Site-specific land management of cereal crops based on proximal soil
Graham Halcro Cranfield University
Traditional management zone (MZ) delineation methods cannot characterise the
variation in yield-limiting properties in a timely and cost-effective manner. This
research sought to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of three fertiliser
application schemes, each derived from different MZ delineation approaches. The
farmer’s usual uniform-rate (UR) scheme was used alongside two using variable-
rate (VR). The first, (VR1) attempted to replicate the traditional method of mapping
MZ (fertility zones) commonly used by commercial companies. The second was an
innovative approach (VR2) which employed high-resolution proximal sensor
systems to map both soil and crop properties for MZ delineation. The innovative
method would have provided the farmer with 3.32 tonnes more OSR yield than his
normal uniform application, if adopted over the whole field, while saving 440 kg of
This study suggests that site-specific data fusion from proximal sensor surveys
can enable the delineation of MZ which better characterise the field-wide fertility.
Evaluating phosphorus availability in soils receiving organic amendment
application using the Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGT) technique.
David Kane Cranfield University

Phosphorus is a resource in finite supply. Use of organic amendments as a source
of P in agriculture can be a sustainable alternative to inorganic P, provided it can
meet crop requirements. The Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGT) technique is
based on natural diffusion of P via a hydrogel and sorption to a ferrihydrite binding
layer; which should accurately represent soil P (CDGT) in a plant available form.
The aim of this research was to evaluate changes in soil P availability, following
the addition of organic amendments, cattle farmyard manure (FYM), green waste
compost (GW), cattle slurry (SLRY) and superphosphate (SP) using Olsen P and
DGT. This study bridges this gap in knowledge about transfer of P between
organic amendments to soil and its influence on plants showing a good
relationship between soil P available by diffusive supply following treatment
additions, and its influence on root and shoot dry matter yield and total P uptake.
Measurements of multiple gas emissions from environmental systems
Matthew Downie Cranfield University
Better understanding of soil carbon turnover and resulting GHG emissions is
needed for emission models and inventories. This research addresses complex
instrumental development for the Wolfson Field Laboratory at Cranfield - an
automated system comprising 24 lysimeters and isotope ratio mass spectrometry
for studying plant and soil carbon dynamics and GHG emissions.

Co-evolution of Rhynchosporium
species on the Lolium species in the UK
Kevin King Rothamsted Research
Rhynchosporium is the causative agent of the economically important disease leaf
blotch of barley crops and other grasses. This study aimed to establish if grasses,
other than barley itself, could provide a source of Rhynchosporium inoculum able
to cause disease on barley crops. To achieve this aim, this work investigated the
recent discovery by Zaffarano et al. (2011) that the genus Rhynchosporium
consists of at least four host-specialised species with no cross-infectivity.
Results obtained in the present study suggest that there are generally four highly
similar yet host-specialised species of Rhynchosporium found on different grass
hosts, and novel species-specific PCR diagnostics were developed to discriminate
between them. However, Rhynchosporium isolates obtained from previously
unexamined Lolium species revealed the co-evolution of two distinct species of
Rhynchosporium on this host. The practical implications of these results will be
Development of tools to detect anthelmintic sensitivity in UK cattle
Claire McArthur Moredun Research Institute
Grazing cattle are infected with a variety of gastrointestinal nematodes and methods of control rely heavily on the use of anthelmintics (also known as wormers or drenches). There have been a number of reports of anthelmintic resistance in cattle nematodes abroad, but little is known about the prevalence or sensitivity of these parasites to anthelmintics in the UK. This project has taken steps to address this lack of information. A questionnaire study has been conducted to ascertain parasite management practices, in conjunction with testing of an injectable ivermectin treatment in a cohort of farms. Two nematode isolates found to be resistant to ivermectin have been further characterised through an in vivo trial, have been investigated using an in vitro lab based test and are currently undergoing molecular analysis. The isolation and identification of feeding stimulants within honey bee
Richard Bridgett Keele University
Numbers of honey bees have fallen sharply over recent years across Europe and
North America. As much as 33% of all our food could be derived from primarily
bee pollinated crops. This could be equivalent to £140bn worth of global
agricultural produce annually.
One theory for the decline is that colony strength is reduced over the winter period,
resulting in bees becoming more susceptible to disease and starvation. To combat
this, beekeepers may feed high protein artificial/supplemental diets to colonies to
increase nutrient diversity, and stimulate brood production. Unfortunately, bees are
often reluctant to feed on these unless some pollen is mixed in.
It is believed that pollens contain naturally occurring feeding stimulants which
increase bee feeding. The addition of pollen to diets carries additional risks to
bees, and so identifying phagostimulants could contribute to the production of
palatable artificial diets. These would allow beekeepers to strengthen colonies
more safely.

Opportunities for charities to partner with BBSRC in supporting agricultural
research students
Dan Godfrey BBSRC
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) receives
an annual budget from Treasury of approximately £450M per year to support
research and training in the biosciences. BBSRC supports a great deal of
agricultural research through its three Research and Technology Clubs in this
area; the Animal Health Research Club (ARC); the Crop Improvement Research
Club (CIRC) and the Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI). These funding
schemes support research projects that are relevant to agricultural businesses and
also support PhD students to train alongside the researchers. In this way, BBSRC
is developing the next generation of scientists who will tackle the many important
issues the agriculture sector is facing. Charities can partner with BBSRC to
support a student by making an annual contribution of £1000. This will help them
to gain additional experience during their PhD, e.g. access to business training,
company visits or international conference attendance. Over the next few months
BBSRC will be awarding 10 new studentships, equally split between horticulture
and animal health. The AFCP will circulate details of the studentships to all of its
members inviting you to partner with BBSRC in supporting them – we would love
to hear from you!
AHDB studentship scheme
Alice Sin AHDB
Currently AHDB offers post graduate studentships through its 6 divisions: BPEX
(pigs), EBLEX (beef and lamb), DairyCo (milk), HGCA (cereals and oilseed), HDC
(horticulture) and Potato Council (potatoes). These aim to produce high-quality
research outputs leading to benefits to the agricultural and horticultural industry,
and for employment within both the commercial and academic arenas. An
overview of the divisional schemes, as well as opportunities for working with AFCP
partners including co-funding will be covered. AHDB is launching a co-ordinated
programme of post-graduate studentships in Summer 2013.
Severity of phoma leaf spotting and stem canker on Brassica
cultivars with Rlm7 resistance against Leptosphaeria maculans in the
Georgia Mitrousia University of Hertfordshire
The development and use of RNA interference (RNAi) for selective gene
knockdown and vaccine candidate identification in the ectoparasitic
mite Psoroptes ovis

Edward Marr Moredun Research Institute
Next generation biogas production – maximizing efficiency and stability
Dorota Dobrzanska University of Warwick
Incidence and genetic variation of an important virus in Europe that reduces
oilseed rape yields
Max Newbert University of Warwick


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