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Harper Adams hosts crop protection conference

12 October 2012

Harper Adams University College hosted the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB) Precision Farming for Crop Protection conference.

The topic of the day was 'Variable Rate Application' and featured a host of guest speakers from around the world.

Held at the National Centre for Precision Farming on campus, the event was opened by Head of Engineering, Professor Simon Blackmore.

Professor Blackmore discussed robotic agriculture and its role in crop protection. He said: "Developed agriculture needs to find new ways to improve efficiency...robotic agriculture is not a new concept. Many examples of driverless tractors have been developed by engineers in the past, however their success has been compromised by their inability to embrace the complexity of the real world."

Following Professor Blackmore was Jan Van de Zande from Wageningen UR Plant Research International, who spoke about the development of variable rate spray application systems in strawberry, leek and pear.

Dr Alistair Murdoch from the University of Reading spoke about automated weed mapping in arable fields for precise applications of herbicides.

He said: “Weeds such as black-grass, wild-oat, barren brome and cleavers often occur in patches in arable fields.
“Farmers, however, frequently spray whole fields to control patches of such weeds. Given a geo-referenced weed map, technology exists to confine spraying to these patches.”

Ben Magri represented Syngenta Crop Protection and spoke about the tailoring of variable rate inputs for better black-grass control. This was followed by John Clayton from Micron Sprayers Ltd who discussed precision band spraying, and Nick Tillett from Tillett and Hague Technology Ltd who spoke about reducing herbicide use in row crops.

The conference was concluded by a presentation on the controlled traffic farming project by visiting Harper Adams professor, Professor Dick Godwin.

Professor Godwin, said: “A long-term project was established at Harper Adams University College in 2011 to investigate the interaction between traffic and tillage on soil and crop responses.

“The aim is to develop an integrated mechanisation system to optimise soil and water resources, crop growth and yields, system performance and economics in commercial agricultural practice.”

Delegates were invited on a tour around the Harper Adams campus and controlled traffic farming project site.

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