Farmers to work with researchers on £125,000 scheme

TACKLING the spread of TB, animal health and weed control were some of the ideas farmers and growers put forward for a £125,000 research scheme.

Part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, in conjunction with the Soil Association, organisers asked for an outline of problems farmers face and the benefits of solving them. 

Farmers and growers from across the country came forward with dozens of suggestions, of which 41 had potential to be developed into research projects.

The growers were interested in deterring slugs, the timing and application of green wastes, no dig methods, using rock dust and biochar to boost soil fertility, and breeding vegetable varieties suitable for wet summers. 

Arable farmers wanted research into controlling weeds, such as creeping thistles, and using weed suppressing species for cleaner harvests. The livestock farmers suggested research into liver fluke, TB, mob grazing, legume leys, and rush management.

Ecological ideas included the control of flea beetles, a troublesome pest of Brassicas, and methods to discourage badger setts from encroaching fields. Amongst the more unusual was controlling mastitis in cattle with propolis from bees, and developing open source programmes for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer to monitor environmental conditions. 

Once the ideas were in, a call went out to research establishments, inviting researchers to work with farmers on these sustainable challenges.

Researchers will be matched with the farmers before the proposals are considered by a panel of farmers and an expert group chaired by Prof Charles Godfray, with the successful applicants announced by the end of March.

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