In addition to the live discussions on the day, the Arable Scotland event throws open its virtual show site this Thursday 2nd July when its clickable site map goes live on-line. Packed with engaging information from the project partners it will allow visitors to tour the event, much as they would have if it had been a field event. ‘Bigger, more innovative and certainly drier’ is how Professor Fiona Burnett of SRUC and co-chair of the event sums up the Arable Scotland virtual show site. ‘Project partners have pulled together to convert this major new field event for Scotland into a digital showground’. The effort has been huge but what we have now is a truly collaborative event bringing the best available arable knowledge and innovation in the UK to the site’. Visitors, touring the site at their leisure by clicking on the virtual plots and stands, can access downloads like podcasts and presentations, watch videos and view infographics as well as joining in the live on the day discussions.
The theme of the event is alternative crops which help to diversify rotations, access new markets and drive more sustainable and profitable arable systems in Scotland. The climate and market pressures on Scotland’s arable businesses are very evident in 2020 and the latest understanding of cropping systems and innovations in alternative crops will be highlighted by the partners and exhibitors at the event. As well as content from the event partners the James Hutton Institute, SRUC, AHDB, FAS, SEFARI and Hutchinsons, exhibitors include breeding companies, agrochemical companies, seed merchants, machinery manufacturers and other technical support firms. Other key UK exhibitors include ADAS, SASA and PGRO. AHDB stops on the site will cover the recommended lists and latest varietal information, and feature the new RL app.
On the SRUC virtual plots, Dr Robin Walker highlights key nitrogen-fixing crops in the novel crops area of the site: "Diverse rotations are key to getting the basics of soil health right, in addition to the other management benefits of alternative crops." SRUC systems work has highlighted the benefits of diversity within and across rotations, and the use of legumes are a key part, not just for N fixing properties, but other benefits including increased food for pollinators and soil health improvements linked primarily to soil structure and soil biology, with some nutrient cycling. Long term overall system sustainability is a key driver as is homegrown protein production and crop quality. Recent research on optimising the use of alternative crops within rotations, and the types of crops and agronomic approaches that work best are featured.
In the spring crop area of the Arable Scotland site, visitors and watch a narrated presentation on the latest findings on ramularia from Dr Neil Havis of SRUC. This discusses the risk factors around ramularia and advice on management now that the fungicide chlorothalonil had been withdrawn. The dry spring in 2020 has reduced the risk for this season, but resistant varieties are some way off so remaining and emerging chemistry and research into alternatives are particularly important to understand.
The Balruddery Farm belonging to the James Hutton Institute is home to its Sustainable Cropping Platform and Dr Cathy Hawes says: "The Hutton plots on the Arable Scotland virtual site demonstrate how integrated cropping can improve the resilience and sustainability of Scottish farming systems by combining a range of best practice options for multiple benefits - soil quality, biodiversity and production efficiency." Professor Adrian Newton, from the James Hutton Institute, says colleagues have provided content that shows the potential for new legume crops, improved varieties and innovative agronomic approaches such as using rhizobial inoculum and altered row spacing. Site stops with Hutton content illustrate how it is possible to intercrop cereals and legumes as efficient mainstream crops for many purposes including high-quality markets. Adrian concludes: "Sharing knowledge and experiences of intercropping and conservation tillage is vital to getting it to work on farm."
The Farm Advisory Service will have a stand in the Virtual Marquee at the site. Here visitors can find videos featuring the latest findings on integrated pest management and reflecting the main issues of the season – extremes of weather and pesticide withdrawals like chlorothalonil. Dr Henry Creissen explains in a video which of the key principles of integrated practices are most effective and easiest to take up, and an infographic features the results of a large survey of Scottish English and Irish growers to develop a metric to measure and quantify Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Dr Creissen says ’This large-scale survey shows that growers rate preventative measures of reducing disease burdens as one of the most important and effective of the IPM measures available. The survey also shows that familiarity with IPM is key to high scoring farms and that open events, discussion groups and independent agronomist is another key feature in high scoring farms’. There is a podcast to listen to on the FAS site featuring expert discussion on alternative crops, the latest ramularia advice and new information on pesticides.
The Plant Health Centre will be in the virtual Arable Scotland Marquee and featuring content on the major challenges and innovations around plant health. They have set up a new knowledge bank of the Plant Health Centre website where growers can easily access the best available information and resource. This is International Year of Plant Health and although 2020 will be remembered for its impact on human health, there are shared issues. The Plant Health Centre has been working with stakeholders on best practices for plant health and the value of local supply versus global movement, the value of prevention and good biosecurity and the importance of monitoring and surveillance are key features in improving Scotland’s plant health.
Hutchinsons are major sponsors of the events and Nick Rainsley, Head of Marketing, says: “Hutchinsons are proud to be the sponsor of Arable Scotland – we believe that the need for relevant, focussed knowledge transfer to growers is vital. With all the changes that are occurring agronomically and politically, the need to understand the issues facing us and the options available from a crop perspective are very important, and Arable Scotland is a key route to share this knowledge.”
Hutchinsons have four main areas they are demonstrating at the Arable Scotland event, picking up on the event's main theme of alternative crops and sustainable systems. Like all the best field events there is a soil pit and in their soil health area they cover the essential information needed by growers and agronomists to actively manage soil resources and optimise crop performance:
- Measure and monitor soil health
- Maximise crop nutrition
- Reduce environmental impact
Using Precision data
Precision Soils scanning and analysis
- Understand soil types and variation
- Understand nutrient properties
- Create active plans to improve or maximise field performance – saving money or increasing yields.
Demonstrating Catch and cover crops
- Increasingly used for their ability to improve soil structure, add green manure and capture nutrients for the following crop.
- Understand which species will give you the correct benefits for a given situation.
- Correct timing for drilling and destruction
- The management of cover crops in a rotation
Hybrid Rye offers potential as biogas feedstock, as an animal feed and as a valuable part of our own food industry.
- High grain yields of 10-13 t/ha - exceeding 2nd wheat and Early harvest (whole crop) or grain (typically between winter barley and wheat)
- Ultra-low take-all carry over (2nd lowest compared to oats)
- High black-grass suppression
- High straw yield (around 30% higher than wheat or barley)
- Ideal option for OSR establishment to ensure volunteer control
- Exceptional drought tolerance on light land.