Farmers sharing and developing ideas

Farm-centric research generally involves On-Farm Experimentation and may be better described as 'Farm Action Research', i.e. research conducted at least in part by and for beneficiaries who also farm. 

Agricultural research and development (R&D) began long before research became the full-time concern of scientists.  Since people began to husband and breed plants and animals, progress has arisen from ideas and reasoning about the accumulated experience of the 'farmers' and their dependent societies.  To a significant extent, all farms continue to make progress in this way.  So farm-centric R&D is habitual and inherent in farming, even though it largely remains informal, unrecorded, and often unreliable.

Beyond this inherent R&D within normal farming processes, many agricultural issues have, since the 19th-century, come to be addressed by more formal, specialised research which has increasingly become separated from farming, to the extent that agricultural researchers and farmers now commonly operate in ignorance of each other's prime concerns.  As a reaction to this separation, interest in farm-centric research is re-emerging in many global regions (Lacoste et al., 2022).  Modern farm-centric research has yet to develop the common global approaches, societies, or communications that would establish its value and widespread recognition; its approaches remain diverse (Lacoste et al., 2022) and its findings remain largely farm-specific, hence diminutive.

The huge uncertainties in farming generally dictate that an appropriate level of confidence in any conclusion from farm-centric research can only be derived from extensive replication of observations or experimentation across multiple farms and/or production cycles.  Effective farm-centric research, therefore, involves a significant element of social cooperation; it is best conducted by groups or networks of farms.  On-farm research also commonly merits involvement by experts in research-specific issues such as group facilitation, communications, hypothesis formation, experimental design, statistical analysis, and the biological or other science relevant to each specific research challenge.  

The potential of farm-centric research to deliver trustworthy conclusions that address immediate farming challenges has been enhanced by the emergence of many digital tools and communication channels.  However, the need for digital infrastructure to support farm-centric research has hardly been recognised yet.  FarmPEP is one attempt to contribute to this infrastructure.  FarmPEP invites and encourages you and all protagonists to add links to other relevant knowledge and infrastructure here. 

Related Organisations

Content below is from across the PEP community and is not necessarily endorsed by Stewards or by PEP

Connected Content

Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.

Farm-PEP aims to bring together all the sources of useful knowledge for Agriculture, whether from academic science, applied research projects, industry trials, farmers own trials or simple on-farm experience. Listed below are useful websites, organisations and websites that we know of.  Add any we've missed in the comments box or by adding as new content, or better still, as a new Group.  

YEN

Yield Enhancement Networks (YENs) were launched in 2012 to support and energise on-farm learning-by-sharing and thus to enhance farming progress.

The Farmer-Led Innovation Network (FLIN) are UK based organisations driving farmer-led innovation - working together to power up and increase the impact of farmer led innovation initiatives.

At this years Agri-Tech E REAP Conference, Sarah Kendall, ADAS Crop Physiologist joined a panel consisting of Matthew Smith (Scientific Technologies) and Macelo Galdos (Rothamsted Research) to discuss how the digital world is informing and guiding the developments and decisions in the real world – ranging from digital twins to predictive models, from platforms to help with scenario planning to the use of AI and machine learning to yield unprecedented insights into the future of agriculture and horticulture.

The Farming Innovation Programme is part of Defra’s investment in innovation, research and development. Defra is partnering with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on the programme. 

Agronomics is the science of understanding the variation in the cropped environment, identifying the management practices and system designs that work. It uses a farm centric approach of shared farm data and on-farm experimentation.

To celebrate 10 years of the YEN, we are hosting a YEN conference that brings together learnings from across our networks. 

DEFRA funding in partnership with Innovate UK, which is looking to support farmers, growers, and foresters who have a bold, ambitious idea. 

  Supporting farmers with robust design and analysis of on-farm experiments in tramline trials.

Slug-Resistant Wheat A project to explore the properties of Watkins 788, a landrace wheat believed to be resistant to slugs, never before been grown in the UK. 

On Farm Experimentation (OFE) is increasingly being recognised as having transformative power in improving performance in agricultural systems across the world.

The British On-Farm Innovation Network   A network of farmers who carry out their own on-farm trials and share the results, seeking a scientifically robust way to progress farm practice.

Thrive through change with the Royal Agricultural University

Inferring the right conclusions from field trials is important - how confident can you be that a result is 'real' rather than due to the underlying noise? As part of the Farm-PEP FIP project we are working with BGS to explore the best ways to communicate confidence, uncertainty, significance, probability and value with farmers and growers.

Poster paper given at IFS 2022 by Daniel Kindred, Roger Sylvester-Bradley, Pete Berry and colleagues. Conventional routes to generating knowledge of ‘what works’ in agriculture have relied on (i) farmers developing their experiences and passing these on locally, and (ii) researchers conducting small plot experiments on a limited number of sites, analysing data and drawing conclusions in a more generic top-down fashion. The advent of (i) the internet enabling ideas and data to be shared widely and (ii) precision farming technologies enabling comparisons or trials by farms, provides the opportunity to interconnect the top-down approach with a more robust farm-centric bottom-up approach.

A new Field Lab from Innovative Farmers investigating how farmers can better harness the power of flowers to fight pests.

ADAS have produced a new guide with our five top tips for successful on-farm trials. We'd love you to give it a try and to hear about what products or approaches you're testing on farm - by sharing the results of trials, we can learn more together.

  Guide to conducting successful Farm Trials. Developed by ADAS from Agronomics pr

Our PulsePEP trial will evaluate the novel method of bi-cropping spring peas, spring oats and spring beans in a rotation, looking at the impact on available nitrogen (N) in the following crop.  It will also evaluate the environmental benefits of including pulses in a rotation, by measuring greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide (N2O), over the course of the experiment. 

Innovative Farmers has now been running for a decade, facilitating farmer-led research to some of

Paper in Agronomy, 2021 by Jason B. Cho, Joseph Guinness Tulsi Kharel, Ángel Maresma, Karl J

Agricultural research is conducted by a range of organisations, from individual farmers, through advisors, distributors, manufacturers, charities, societies, supply chain companies, levy bodies, universities and research institutes.  This page aims to connect across these often disparate sources.

The development of Farm-PEP Performance Enhancement Partnerships to support on-farm knowledge generation through shared ideas, data and experimentation. Funded as part of Farming Innovation Pathways programme from Defra and Innovate UK Transforming Food Production.

AICC Advisors and farmers testing appropriate nitrogen rates and strategies for reduction in light of current high prices.  Brought together by the FarmPEP FIP project

Knowledge Exchange in Agriculture in the UK is diverse, with many organisations involved. That is part of the reason for creating Farm-PEP, to help provide connections to what many percieve as a fragmented landscape.

An internationally excellent Research Institute” (REF, 2021). Shaping rural development policy and practice in the UK, Europe and further afield.

EIP-Agri Project supporting groups of YEN farmers to test specific ideas.

Many of the most telling innovations that make a difference on-farm come from farmers themselves, or from close collaboration between farmers, advisors, industry and researchers

This Innovative Farmers Field Lab investigated defoliation as a control for cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) larval populations in oilseed rape. It worked with eight farmers to look at the potential for controlling cabbage stem flea beetle by mowing and grazing OSR crops

Direct Driller is a new farming magazine, designed by farmers for farmers to educate and inform the industry about direct drilling and no-till techniques, soil regeneration and soil conservation in arable and mixed farming situations. Direct Driller Magazine is available free to all farmers and agronomists who register with us and can be received in the post or via email depending on your preference. The key aim of Direct Driller is to help farmers to take back control of their farms and businesses and find a way of growing healthy crops using minimal effort and the correct inputs. It will be content put on by farmers, for farmers. We will showcase all the latest machinery and techniques, but the core of the Magazine is all about the soil and how you can use machinery, inputs and biology to improve it.

GrassCheckGB is a grass monitoring project involving 50 dairy, beef and sheep farms.   Growth and quality data is published weekly throughout the growing season

Understanding how to drive performance of pea crops, by sharing measurements, experiences and ideas

This field lab was initiated as part of the ADAS project ‘Investigating the distribution and presence, and potential for herbicide resistance of UK brome species in arable farming’, funded by AHDB.  

The Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust is a charity organisation whose aim is to bring positive change to agriculture through the development of its future leaders, sending them overseas to learn from others and helping them share their brilliant ideas when they return home.  

Guidance from ADAS Agronomics on how best to conduct Line Trials on farm.  

The Organic Research Centre (ORC) is the UK's leading independent organic research organisation. Changing the future of food and farming.

Trinity's next generation global farm platform empowering everyone to learn, collaborate, and discover together

Hybrid conference held in Montpellier in October 2021 exploring Farmer Centric On-Farm Experimentation.  

Scientific paper in Field Crops Research published by the ADAS Agronomics team reporting experience working with BASF Real Results farmers conducting around 50 on-farm Line Trials per year.

Innovative Farmers, as part of their involvement in the Horizon Europe LEGUMINOSE project we will be setting up trials with Reading University to look at the benefits of intercropping in arable rotations.

Trinity's next generation global farm platform empowering everyone to learn, collaborate, and discover together

Our vision for Farm-PEP was summarised at a conference addressing "On-Farm Experimentation" (at M

Summary of ADAS Agronomics service, including: Fair trial design In-

  Join with members of the Innovative Farmers network past and present for an insp

Refereed paper in Journal of Rural Studies by Sandra Šūmane and colleagues (2018). 

Innovation in agriculture refers to the development and implementation of new ideas, technologies, and practices in the agricultural sector.

Farmer Innovation Group as part of YEN Yield Testing project on achieving Deeper Rooting. Encouragement of deep burrowing earthworms might enhance yields by enabling deeper rooting, and capture of more sub-soil water.

BASF Real Results Circle (https://basfrealresults.co.uk/) has been running since 2017, bringing together 50 farmers and supporting them to test decisions on-farm.

How do you conduct and manage robust research and development at scale on your farm? What are the best methods for data collection and analysis? What are the best approaches to collaborative projects with researchers? Join us on April 28th as we explore the scientific approaches to on-farm trials and how to work more effectively with researchers.

The Agriculture Knowledge & Innovation System

This field lab's objective is to investigate the potential of living mulches, creating a permanent clover understory to suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, protect and enhance soil health, as a means to achieving organic and low-input no-till systems - that can be more sustainable than those systems they seek to replace.

Scientific Paper by Rob Bramley, Simon Cook and colleagues in 'Agronomy for Sustainable Development' 2022.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this on-farm winter oats trial tested the effects of applying Utrisha N. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this on-farm winter wheat trial tested the effects of applying Utrisha N at two contrasting N rates. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

Long-term experiments (LTEs) are valuable resources to assess the sustainability and resilience of agricultural practices and systems.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this on-farm winter wheat trial tested two biostimulants (3 Alo T6P and Nutrino Pro) applied as a tank mix with fungicides at the T3 timing. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

The Second International Conference on farmer-centric On-Farm Experimentation

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this on-farm winter wheat trial compared N rates from 140 to 260 kg/ha, including the N rate recommended by the Yara N tester. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this simple on-farm winter wheat trial in Nottinghamshire tested the yield effect of reducing N rate from the 'farm standard' of 220 kg/ha to 170 kg/ha. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and reporting from ADAS.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, these two on-farm winter wheat trials tested whether the N inhibitor Didin can sufficiently slow N release to allow the whole season's N fertiliser to be applied as UAN in a single split. The 'farm standard' control treatment consisted of the same N rate applied as UAN over three split timings without an inhibitor. Trials were facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

As part of the AICC Crop Nutrition Club 2022, this on-farm winter wheat trial compared N rates from 140 to 260 kg/ha, including the N rate recommended by the Yara N tester amd one treatment with additional Poly N Plus. The trial was facilitated by a local AICC advisor, with support and Agronomics yield map analysis from ADAS.

The Global On-Farm Experimentation Network has been set up to connect OFE communities worldwide. GOFEN is setting up a directory of organisations and actors with an interest in OFE. It will be launched at the OFE 2023 conference in December 2023.

The demo design guide summarizes in 6 steps how to design an on-farm demonstration event, starting from a clear definition of the objectives and ending with a good evaluation and follow-up.

Paper we've been involved in just published at  

A trial site in Suffolk investigated a range of management techniques, including time of sowing f

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