Phenotyping is an F-word: crop research in Fields, on Farms, with Farmers
Roger Sylvester-Bradley, ADAS Boxworth, Cambridge
Progress towards sustainable crop productivity depends on effective exchange of knowledge and data between industry and science. ADAS’s crop physiology group is working to develop a common set of concepts, metrics and targets which enables analysis of crop productivity and sustainability by both the farming and research communities. We call this ‘agronŏmics’. These two communities have habitually worked at different scales, their analyses of performance have differed, and any extrapolation between small (science) and large (industry) scales has entailed massive ‘leaps of faith’. However, emerging technologies for on-farm instrumentation and automation now offer hope of undertaking quantitative crop research – phenotyping – at the scales of field and farm, and also (critically) of providing a new understanding of spatially variable factors, particularly soil. The challenges are now to develop (i) targeted farm networks, (ii) even more precise farm machinery, (iii) new spatially-referenced statistical techniques, and (iv) proof of the practical value of concepts such as ‘resource capture’. Recently initiated farm networks such as ‘YEN’ and ‘LearN’ are in the vanguard of these ‘agronŏmic’ developments.