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Charities back research centre

PUBLISHED: 09:09 10 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

Funding worth £1.4m has been secured by The Arable Group for two new ambitious research projects to start autumn.

Methods of reducing farming's environmental footprint is to be the focus of a five-year study conducted at Morley, near Wymondham, and linked to a project at Otley in Suffolk, where lowering the industry's current reliance on high input use will be investigated, said TAG's Jim Orson.

Funding worth £1.4m has been secured by The Arable Group for two new ambitious research projects to start autumn.

Methods of reducing farming's environmental footprint is to be the focus of a five-year study conducted at Morley, near Wymondham, and linked to a project at Otley in Suffolk, where lowering the industry's current reliance on high input use will be investigated, said TAG's Jim Orson.

"Rising energy costs are forcing growers to re-evaluate their use of cultivations, rotations and crop inputs," he said.

"Up until now, they've relied on high input use, particularly nitrogen, to be competitive. But the cost and environmental implications of this are being felt sharply."

Mr Orson added that the farming systems project will be target led. "We're appointing an advisory group, independent of TAG, to set targets and monitor our activities. We hope to have delivered significant progress after three years."

Work on cultivations and rotations will be integrated, so that their interaction on both light and heavy soils is understood, he said.

The implication of any recommendations on grass weed management is a key area. The cost of grass weed control has escalated in recent years, because of resistance."

He admitted that some of the planned approaches are radical and risky.

"We are expecting some failure. But if the industry isn't prepared to look at things such as clover bi-cropping, novel tillage methods and soil mineral nitrogen management, we will never know whether they can be developed into practical techniques for the UK."

More familiar practices, such as precision farming, will also be re-visited, he added.

"As costs go on rising, the financial benefit of this type of technology changes."

The project is being funded by three regional charities, Morley Agricultural Foundation, the JC Mann Trust and the Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust, which have recognised the importance of farming's environmental impact and the uncertain future of energy supplies.

"What we can't do in this project is measure the actual impact that successful practices have on the environment," said Mr Orson.

"We will need more funding to be able to do that."

He also hopes that TAG will be able to link into a large carbon reduction initiative being run at the UEA.

"Farming is a very large user of energy. Being able to benefit from other work will help to reduce the industry's carbon footprint."

The second project that TAG is about to undertake is the creation of a new agronomy centre in Norfolk, where trials will be carried out for the benefit of the region's farming industry.

"It's going to feature a more open approach to agronomic research," outlined Mr Orson. "There'll be a small charge for access to the results, but delivery will mainly be done via a website."

The Norfolk centre is the first of three such facilities planned by TAG, he confirms. "We're also intending to establish centres in the south and the north. We're currently in discussions with potential funders."

Mr Orson stressed that the new centre should be seen as an industry initiative.

"We're hoping to create the sort of facility that consultants would be happy to bring their customers to. It will have an open atmosphere, to encourage good information transfer between ourselves and visitors."

Research at the new centre is being funded by The Morley Agricultural Foundation and will be guided by an independent advisory group.

"The idea is to support growers with unbiased and independent information, at minimal cost," concludes Mr Orson.

"It's highly appropriate to the charitable status of TAG."

For more information, visit

TAG at Cereals on stand number 312.


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