Home 2017-06-26T11:24:10+00:00

From Crop Protection to Crop Health

Professor Rob Edwards is Head of Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and chairs Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farmer Scientist Network.

Professor Rob Edwards

My scientific career has been focused on finding ways of protecting our crops from pests and diseases. Over the past few decades we have been very successful in doing that, but in more recent years two serious issues have arisen: concerns about the environmental and health effects of modern pesticides and increasing resistance of pathogens to the pesticides we use. The latter has been a particular problem in controlling fungal diseases affecting wheat.

That’s why, just like the NHS, we are looking at alternatives with more emphasis on enhancing the health of crops rather than treating disease. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farmer -Scientist Network brings together scientific and practical expertise to push forward innovation and new technology in agriculture. A grant from the European Innovation Programme for Agriculture (EIP-AGRI) is enabling the Network to carry out trials, looking at different approaches to crop protection.

Working with a group of farmers and technologists we are comparing the effectiveness of synthetic and “biologic” products on different wheat varieties’ disease resistance, yield and quality. The trials are taking place at three sites: Stockbridge Technology Centre in Yorkshire and Newcastle University’s Cockle Park and Nafferton farms in Northumberland. By using three different sites we are also able to test performance on different soils and in varied climatic conditions.

The biologic reagents are micro-organisms used to coat seeds before sowing or sprayed onto the plant. They work, rather like probiotics in human medicine, to strengthen the plant’s natural resistance. These are relatively new to the UK but likely to become widely available over the next few years.

The research will continue over the next two years, with open days when farmers and anyone who is interested can come and learn about the trial. The results will be widely disseminated as they could help ensure our food security in future. In the meantime, if you want to know more, please contact the project coordinator, Holly Jones at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society: Email: Hollyj@yas.co.uk

Within this project, Rob will be acting as the Lead/Scientific Coordinator of the project.

Dr Phillip Davis

Applied Photobiologist, Stockbridge Technology Centre.

Within this project,
Philip will be a Technical Specialist and
Test Site Lead for Stockbridge
Technology Centre.

Project Timeline

Project updates as they happen

December 2017

23rd November 2017 – Crop Health North Conference

Crop Health North held a conference on Thursday 23rd November aimed to inspire farmers and agronomists to think differently about how biologicals for wheat could have a role to play in the future. The audience learnt why biologicals have been used and what effect they have on the plant’s health. This was an opportunity to explore different methods of practice sharing ideas on how to develop the project further. Following the presentations explaining the spring wheat trail findings, the biological product that is being used and the trial design for next year’s winter wheat trials, the audience had an opportunity to participate in a round table discussion. Themes that came up included;

  • Can the project analyse conventional timings vs. optimum biological timings.
  • Can the project use spore capture technology to identify when spores land?
  • Can the project demonstrate financial viability?
  • Can the project access crop monitor farm data as a comparison?
  • Can the biological add value through nutrition uptake?
  • What is the perception of biologicals with farmers and the general public?

You can view the presentations here:

Crop Health North Overview by Prod Rob Edwards

IPM and Biopesticide use in Arable Crops by Dr Roma Gwynn

Trials Overview by Tom King

An Introduction to Bayer Biologicals by Tim Lacey

Tom talks through the spring wheat trials and plot designs for next year’s winter wheat.

October 2017

23rd October 2017

The crop was successfully drilled at Stockbridge Technology Centre.

16th October 2017

Drilling preparation for winter wheat

Nafferton and Cockle Park farms successfully drilled for winter wheat earlier this week. The two wheat varieties the trial will focus on are Skyfall and Leeds. The thousand grain weight  (TGW) for Skyfall is 54g and Leeds is 51g. Both have 98% germination. The trials will run 6 replicates on each site of the three sites, Nafferton  farm, Stockbridge Technology Centre and Cockle Park farm. You can find out more about our work package 2 here: https://www.crophealthnorth.co.uk/work-packages/

July 2017

4th July 2017

Spring Wheat Demonstration Day

It was a rather wet and drizzly day for our Spring Wheat Demonstration Day in the North East. The event took place on Tuesday 4th July near Morpeth and was open to all who were interested to learn about the progress of the trials.

Prof Rob Edwards chaired the discussions and we heard from Tom King, Eurofins, who is leading on the trial site analysis at Cockle Park and Nafferton Farms.

Left to right: Mulika variety Conventional, Conventional/Biological ( Integrated Pest management, IPM), Biological


Observations from the samples:

The Mulika examples look a lot dirtier – you can see the yellowish leaves. Due to the brighter and drier weather conditions this year, there has not been a great amount of disease. It will be useful to see the yield of the grain and the protein content and to make a visual comparison with Stockbridge Technology Centre  based further south. These samples have not been counted and were for observation purposes only. This may not necessarily be a negative. The vision of the trial is to see how plants can increase their natural defences. A plant may have yellow septoria, however, could  be a stronger variety as a whole and better equipped to fight off disease.

Trial Site, Cockle Park Farm, Morpeth

Full Summary Notes for Spring Wheat Demonstration Day

June 2017

4th June 2017

Nafferton and Cockle Park were sprayed today. Cockle Park has had some slug damage but should be ok once it catches up with the Nafferton site. Not enough damage that is worth treating. Still plenty of crop there though for results and yield.

Full Timeline


Demonstration days, exhibitions and presentations