For 10 years now ADAS has operated the Yield Enhancement Network as a route for farmers to share ideas, benchmark data and learn together what drives the large variation in crop performance (e.g. White et al., 2022). Since 2017 ADAS has been promoting the concept of ‘Agronomics’ in which farmers across the UK and beyond, conduct Line Trials comparing products and practices in side by side field scale experiments robustly analysed with spatial statistics (Marchant et al., 2019). ADAS now supports around 200 commercial line trials per year. These demonstrate that when co-ordinated groups of farm trials are analysed together they can achieve greater precision than is normally achievable with small plot trials (Roques et al., 2022). This approach constitutes part of a global movement towards On-Farm Experimentation (OFE) (Lacoste et al, 2022; Bramley et al., 2022).
A new platform for farm-centric knowledge generation is now being co-created across agricultural industry to combine the YENs and Agronomics with more conventional knowledge generation. This is FarmPEP – the Farm Peformance Enhancement Platform (Kindred et al., 2021). FarmPEP has four pillars to its approach: (1) a shared understanding of concepts that determines key measures; (2) metrics that can be shared, benchmarked & analysed; (3) design thinking to identify questions and potential solutions; and (4) on-farm tests of decisions, products or systems.
The first of these pillars is now being supported by the development of a new knowledge exchange website at www.farmpep.net. The aim is to connect across agriculture providing a space where farmers, industry, advisors, researchers and knowledge exchange practitioners can share information on useful organisations, initiatives, resources and events, with everything connected by Topics. Each Topic has a page where current trusted knowledge is distilled in a Wikipedia style summary facilitated by ‘Stewards’, with further information sources being recommended. Unstewarded opinions and observations connected to that Topic can be posted by any member of the community at the bottom of the page. This is sorted by popularity.
The approaches of YEN, Agronomics and FarmPEP are especially applicable to crop nutrition. Enabling data sharing and benchmarking of data at scale in YEN Nutrition (www.yen.adas.co.uk) is already yielding new insights to be discovered for agronomic science, as well as for individual farms (Sylvester-Bradley et al., 2022). Farmers can readily test their fertiliser decision making through Line Trials, for example by simply applying 50kg N/ha more or less to alternate tramlines (Kindred et al., 2018). A new Innovate UK project is seeking to support growers in testing fertiliser applications in 50m patches where a product is either applied or omitted, and findings are analysed and shared in Crop Nutrition Clubs.
Bramley, R., Song, X. (2022) Did someone say “farmer-centric”? Digital tools for spatially distributed on-farm experimentation. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 42 DOI:10.1007/s13593-022-00836-x
Kindred, D., Clarke, S.M., Sylvester-Bradley, et al. (2018) Using farm experience to improve N management for wheat (LearN). AHDB Project Report No PR596
Lacoste, M., Cook, S (2021) On-Farm Experimentation to transform global agriculture. Nature Food (2021).
Marchant, B., Rudolph, S., Roques, S., Kindred, D., Gillingham, V., Welham, S., Sylvester-Bradley, R. (2018). Establishing the precision and robustness of farmers’ crop experiments. Field Crops Research 230. 31-45
Roques, S., Kindred, D., Berry, P., Helliwell, J. (2022). Successful approaches for on-farm experimentation. Field Crops Research 287 108561
Sylvester-Bradley, R., D. Kindred, B. P. Marchant, S. Rudolph, S. Roques, A. Calatayud, S. Clarke and V. Gillingham (2017). "Agronomics: transforming crop science through digital technologies." Advances in Animal Biosciences: Precision Agriculture (ECPA) 2017 8(2): 728-733
Sylvester-Bradley, R., Roques, S., Baxter, C. & Kendall, S. (2022). Nutrient harvests: the essential yardstick to transform crop nutrition. Proceedings International Fertiliser Society 874, 2‑56.
White, C., Wilkinson, T., Kindred, D., Belcher, S., Howard, R., Vickers, R., Sylvester-Bradley, R. (2022). The Bean YEN: Understanding bean yield variation on UK farms. Annals of Applied Biology