Jack Ward has been in meetings with officials from the Home Office looking for practical solutions to the challenge of securing adequate numbers of seasonal workers in the future. Jack explained that the meeting was part of a series of meetings held with Govt Depts and the Edible Horticulture Round Table of which he is the co-chair. The meeting was set up at the request of the Home Office and formed part of their consultation on the White Paper on Immigration published at the end of 2018.
The Government is keen to find a balance between the need for greater control over the numbers of non UK nationals seeking work the UK and the needs of industry. We used the meeting to highlight that the use of seasonal workers makes minimal difference to the numbers seeking to settle permanently in the UK. In the vast majority of cases, seasonal workers come to the UK and return home when the work runs out at the end of the season. The immigration Bill is likely to complete its passage through parliament later this year. The Bill will be largely enabling legislation and the detail will follow in 2020 once the consultation on the fine print is complete.
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has commissioned a yearlong review of the UK’s National Food position. The review will be led by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon restaurants, the lead non-executive director at Defra and co-author of The School Food Plan. The review will be a part of developing a National Food Strategy.
“No part of our economy matters more than food. It is vital for life, and for pleasure. It shapes our sense of family, community and nation: cooking and eating together is perhaps the defining communal act. The food system also provides jobs for one in eight of us.”
“Leaving the EU is a great opportunity for British farmers and food producers. But with an expanding population, the urgent threat of climate change and rising levels of diet-related disease, we face many challenges too. That is why the time is right for us to look afresh at our food system to ensure everyone has access to high-quality British food and our environment is protected for future generations. I am delighted that Henry Dimbleby will be leading this once-in-a-generation opportunity to cultivate a stronger food system for the future.”
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The INNO-VEG project is developing innovative methods for carrying out research into field vegetable and potato crops. The four-year project began in August 2018. This year, a programme of 48 field experiments has been set up in the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to develop an overarching protocol for integrating crop sensing data into field research methodologies. ADAS, an RSK company, leads the project in the UK; the partners are Inagro in Belgium, Delphy in the Netherlands and ARVALIS – Institut du vegetal in France.
Reliable research methods are crucial to underpin the evidence base needed to meet the challenges of sustainable intensification of field vegetable and potato production. The project will evaluate the suitability of using crop sensing data to assess treatment differences in field experiments. Project lead and ADAS soil scientist Lizzie Sagoo explains, “We know that crop sensing data, for example, from drones or tractor-mounted sensors, can show up differences in crop performance across a field. We want to see whether these techniques accurately assess final crop yields. If they do, they can be used instead of the labour-intensive and expensive standard field assessments.”
Traditional crop research relies on replicated treatments in small plots and intensive measurements. It is usually led and delivered by agronomy, consultancy or academic organisations. Consequently, farmers typically only host experiments. They do not play active roles in the research, neither applying the treatments nor assessing their effectiveness. Moreover, this research model is expensive, and the budget is limited for research on field vegetable and potato crops.
“If we can show that crop sensing data can be used to assess differences in crop treatments, we can upscale to split-field or tramline comparisons. Then, we can adopt a farmer-led approach to delivering research in this sector. The model will enable farmers to apply treatments to different areas of a field using their own farm equipment and carry out accurate measurements using high-resolution crop data,” says Sagoo.
“We have developed approaches to bring scientific rigour to farmer-led research in combinable crops like wheat,” ADAS head of agronomics Daniel Kindred continues. “Treatments can be set up in line trials and statistically compared using yield maps from a combine harvester. The main barrier to adopting this approach is that yield mapping, although technically possible, is very rarely used for field vegetable crops. However, high-resolution spatial crop imagery can be easily collected during the growing season from all field vegetable crops. If this can be used as an indicator or a proxy for the final crop output, it can also enable field-scale research.”
In 2020, field validation experiments will test the protocol developed during 2019 in the field-scale research experiments to develop a framework for farmer-led research. The framework will then be tested in farmer-led field experiments during 2021. Information collected from farmer groups and field testing will be used to refine the framework to ensure the outputs are presented in formats that are easily understandable and written in sufficient detail to facilitate the adoption of the farmer-led approach.
This project brings together an internationally respected group of researchers with extensive experience of field vegetable and potato production systems, crop sensing techniques, spatial data analysis and on-farm advice. “Our ultimate aim is to provide farmers with a methodology for carrying out research on their own farms, where they can test new approaches such as varieties, establishment techniques or fertiliser management,” says Sagoo.
In addition to the field experiments, the project team is setting up a cross-border (the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands) network to facilitate innovation between the precision farming/sensor technology industry, research organisations and the field vegetable and potato crop sectors. The network is being developed by Delphy in the Netherlands and is due to launch later this year.
“The INNO-VEG innovation network will focus on facilitating innovation by realising the value of crop sensing technology in the delivery of field vegetable and potato research. We invite anyone with an interest in this area to join to network,” says network lead Cor Van Oers from Delphy.
The INNO-VEG project has received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas programme 2014-2020 co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under subsidy contract No 2S05-032.
The Asparagus Growers Association Biennial Conference : 16 July 2019
Following the success of the Asparagus Biennial Conference in 2017, the Asparagus Growers Association is organising an even bigger event on Tuesday 16 July 2019.
The Conference and Exhibition is being held at the world renown National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC), Sand Hutton, York, which is a well-established conference and exhibition venue.
The Conference Dinner will be held on the evening of Monday 15 July 2019 at Sandburn Hall, Flaxton, York.
We are pleased to announce Chris Rose from Chris Rose Associates will be presenting “Harvesting Practises for Asparagus” and will be followed by various experts in the asparagus field.
Dr Andrew Swift, Director of Science Services and Capita and CEO of Fera Ltd is the after-dinner speaker following a drinks reception and dinner.
For further information and registration please visit the website: www.asparagusconference.co.uk, alternatively, please do not hesitate to contact Debbie Stacey at BGA House, Nottingham Road, Louth, Lincolnshire, LN11 0WB, telephone 01507 353 789, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A month of rain fell on brassica crops in Lincolnshire in a single day last week; growers across the key production areas are assessing the damage and the impact on consumers.
A spokesman for the Brassica Growers Association said “in a normal year we would expect around 50 mm of rain for entire month of June. Last week, crops waiting to be harvested were deluged with up to 80 mm of rain in a single day. Some farms recorded the equivalent of 3 months in a week. This has turned fields into quagmires, creating nightmare conditions for the harvest teams. Staff struggled through mud, up to a foot deep, to harvest crops and fulfil orders”.
“Growers are used to dealing with the weather, but the conditions last week were well outside what we are used to” explained the Association spokesman.
More rain is forecast this week and while the immediate risk of flooding has reduced, the fields will remain totally waterlogged long after the rain has stopped and harvesting crops will continue to be a real challenge.
Harvesting is not the only activity to be affected; we are now at a critical stage for planting crops for harvest in winter and spring 2020 and the impact of the recent rains could have knock on effect on future availability.
The spokesman said that growers are working closely with customers to keep them informed about the situation and what they can expect by way of supplies. Lincolnshire produces about 30% of all field scale veg grown in the UK and was hardest hit by the ‘freak’ weather conditions.
2019 is in marked contrast to 2018 when all the talk was of drought and lack of rain. “There is no doubt” said the spokesman “that we are seeing much more volatile weather patterns in recent years, which all adds to the demands of growing high quality produce.”
The Agriculture Bills passage through parliament will start to speed up following the decision to postpone the date for the UKs exit from the EU. Following a meeting with Defra staff, Jack reports that we could start to see the Bill continue on its path through the parliamentary process in May. (there has been virtually no progress on the Bill since the Committee stages in November). There are several aspects of the Bill which are of particular interest to the fresh produce industry. The Govt is keen to support increased productivity and discussions are starting to take place on what this might entail. The section on POs is another area where the fresh produce industry will be taking a keen interest. We have started to give some thought to how a replacement scheme might operate so we are on the front foot with our proposals. Work on the Food Strategy is also moving forward. There has been a lot of talk about the role which fresh produce could take in delivering a healthier nation. The Food Strategy is an ideal opportunity to see this message turned into something tangible which lends more support and encouragement to need to increase our daily intake of fruit and veg.
Many new initiatives affecting the sector have been on hold while parliamentary time has been taken up with Brexit. Now that a no deal scenario is looking less likely, the Government machine will be returning to a more ‘business as normal’ pattern of operation. This should mean that the discussions on the detail of the new Agriculture Bill will start to accelerate. Expect busy times ahead.
Mushroom Growers have given the go ahead for a new group to represent their industry. Despite being the second largest vegetable category by value in the UK, mushroom growers have had not formal group to represent their interests since the demise of the Mushroom Growers Association in 2005.
At the recent AHDB Mushroom conference Growers agreed to go ahead and establish a new grower group.
The principle remit of the group will be to guide the use of grower levies spent on R&D through the creation of a R&D strategy for the Mushroom sector;
Work with AHDB and members of the protected edibles panel to identify relevant and suitable R&D projects. And to monitor and feedback on the delivery of these projects.
Create opportunities for knowledge transfer and set up technical days, conferences and seminars to disseminate industry best practice
Speaking at the conference Jack Ward, CEO of British Growers said,
“The industry needs to raise the profile of the mushroom sector and build its credibility as a high-tech forward-looking industry making a positive and valued contribution to the UK food chain and the UK economy. On behalf of the sector we need to ensure that its voice is heard by key decision makers and stakeholders.”
The new group will be open to both mushroom growers and allied trades. Anyone interested in joining the Group should contact email@example.com.