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Farming

£1m to improve soil management

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Not well understood: Soil biology

THE AGRICULTURE ​AND HORTICULTURE DEVELOPMENT BOARD (AHDB) and the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) have announced an ambitious new research partnership to develop practical soil biology management guidance.

The five-year partnership looks to improve on-farm understanding of soil health by benchmarking current academic and industry knowledge, developing and validating indicators of soil biology and soil health in research trials and integrating a far-reaching knowledge exchange programme throughout the five-year programme.

This forms an important part of AHDB’s strategic commitment to accelerating innovation and productivity growth through coordinated research and development and knowledge exchange.

The new £1​m project is part of the AHDB GREAT soils programme, complementing a £1.5m initiative looking at soil structure, announced by AHDB last year.

Dr Elizabeth Stockdale, partnership lead from NIAB, said: “We recognise that there are already a broad range of novel soil health management strategies being used in an array of production systems; we want to bring together the best research and the most effective practical approaches on-farm by establishing up to eight farmer research innovation groups across the UK so we can help farmers develop their own site-specific best practice.”

Dr Amanda Bennett, AHDB resource management scientist, said: “Interest in soil health has mounted in recent years but soil biology is not particularly well understood, with research to date failing to generate practical materials to support on-farm decisions. Farmers and growers have themselves taken up the mantle and a great deal of work is being done out in the field experimenting with different approaches to optimising soil biology.

“This exciting new partnership will work closely with farmers, growers and advisers to draw together and build on all that knowledge and experience to create accessible guidance and tools to help farmers improve their soils’ health.”

Dr Simon Bowen, BBRO knowledge exchange & crop progression lead, said: “Soil health is both a longer-term and cross-rotational challenge and the collaborative approach across different crop sectors over the five year programme is a unique and vital research platform. Crops such as sugar beet create an opportunity as a spring-sown break crop for many growers in the East of England to deploy a range of tools and tactics. These include the application of organic amendments, the growing of over-winter cover crops and the use of different soil cultivation approaches. The challenge to measure the impacts of these different agronomic approaches in order to deliver in the most effective improvement in soil health has never been so important​.​”

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Farming

Shoppers prefer to buy Welsh

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Welsh produce: Known for good quality

EIGHT out of 10 Welsh shoppers believe food and drink from Wales is Great Quality, Great Tasting and they would always buy Welsh if the price is right.

These are some of the key findings of a new report by Food and Drink Wales on the ‘Value of Welshness’.

Shoppers outside of Wales believe Wales is known for good quality food and drink and would like to support Welsh food and drink. 29% would like to see more Welsh food and drink in their shops.

Wales is more associated with naturalness than GB.

The scope for growth in Welsh products is substantial and there is strong shopper support for food and drink from Wales. The evidence suggests Welsh branding sits well with, and enhances GB branding.

Promoting Welsh food and drink, both nationally and globally, is a top priority for the Welsh Government and increasing numbers of Welsh brands are being recognised around the world. This was highlighted by the recent BlasCymru / TasteWales event, which featured buyers from as far afield as Hong Kong, the UAE and the USA.

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths welcomed the findings of the report. She said: “In recent years Welsh food and drink has gained a growing and well-deserved reputation for uniqueness and high quality. This is reflected in the fact 14 Welsh food and drink products have now been awarded coveted ‘Protected Food Name’ status.

“We have an ambitious target to grow the industry by 30% to £7b by 2020. Although there are undoubtedly major challenges ahead, not least our impending exit from the European Union, I am confident we can overcome them if we continue to promote the unique, special nature of our produce.

“This report shows there is strong support for food and drink from Wales and there are definite benefits for Welsh brands by using ‘Welshness’ to enhance their proposition inside and outside of Wales.”

Andy Richardson, Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board said: “It is very encouraging for us as an Industry Board to see that this research highlights the importance of Welsh provenance and underpins the confidence we have in our food and drink sector. We are proud of what our businesses produce and the research findings from the Value of Welshness is testimony that consumers feel the same.”

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Farming

Success against ‘late blight’

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New Maris Piper cross: Resistant to blight

A POTATO modified to resist the devastating disease ‘late blight’ has proven a brilliant success, says BBSRC-funded scientists based at Norwich Research Park.

The team, led by Professor Jonathan Jones and part of BBSRC’s Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI), have introduced a blight-resistant gene from a wild potato to its close relative, the popular Maris Piper.

Blight is a globally serious problem. It was a significant contributor to the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and, in the 20th century, became the subject of biological weapons research owing to its ability to utterly decimate crops.

“The first year of the Maris Piper field trial has worked brilliantly,” said Professor Jones. “We’ve observed resistance to late blight in all the lines.”

Crop losses due to late blight are still significant, and with an increasing global population with complex nutritional needs, greater steps are needed to be taken in order to improve agricultural sustainability and food security.

“We have the technology to solve the problems that affect many people’s livelihoods,” said Professor Jones. “Crop diseases reduce yields and require application of agri-chemicals, and this field trial shows that a more sustainable agriculture is possible.”

This new blight-resistant gene introduced to the Maris Piper offers the promise of furthering its crop strength, and even the possibility of avoiding the use of chemical fungicides in its cultivation altogether.

First introduced in 1966, the Maris Piper was the result of a potato breeding programme based in Cambridge. The key benefit of this ‘new’ potato was its resistance to potato cyst nematodes. Now fairly common in UK supermarkets, the Maris Piper is considered a good ‘all-rounder’, and is particularly popular for making chips and crisps.

Field trials at Norwich are continuing, and next year the team will begin to explore the genetic traits that can improve tuber quality. The team hope to produce a crop that is less prone to bruise damaging – a problem that currently causes losses of around £200 per hectare – and help improve the quality and sustainability of the UK’s potato crop.

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Farming

PGI Welsh Beef asks ‘are you beef body ready?’

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Dan Lydiate: Face of the 2017 PGI Welsh Beef advertising campaign

PGI W​ELSH BEEF has launched a new marketing campaign featuring Wales international rugby union player Dan Lydiate to promote a more ‘real world’ approach to health and strength.

The campaign subverts the contentious ‘are you beach body ready?’ advert, which caused a storm of controversy following its appearance across London tube stations in 2015. The original campaign, launched by a protein supplement brand, was accused of promoting unhealthy body image and this campaign looks to demonstrate how a natural diet can improve health.

Nutritional therapist, Sharon Ling Dip NT mBANT & CNHC comments: “Our bodies need the correct combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats to function well. Protein, in particular, is essential for growth and repair in the body and is a key building block for bones, muscles, cartilage and skin.

“Lean, red meat is a good source of dietary protein and when eaten in moderation, can form part of a healthy diet. It contains a number of essential B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium.

“An advantage of grass-fed beef is that it tends to be lower in overall fat, with a slightly higher proportion of omega 3 than conventionally fed cattle. It also tends to be higher in vitamin E and beta-carotene which improves its overall nutrient profile.”

Lydiate, who prior to his top level rugby career grew up on a farm in Llandrindod Wells, appears in traditional farming attire in front of a herd of Welsh Beef cattle, alongside the strapline ‘are you beef body ready?’

Shot at Vians Hill Farm in Vale of Glamorgan, the new advert will feature on outdoor advertising space in Cardiff during the Autumn Internationals, and as part of a digital campaign on PGI Welsh Beef’s Facebook page and Twitter profile. This will include an opportunity for people to win tickets for Wales’ final Autumn International against South Africa, by filling in the blank in the sentence “I need to be #BeefBodyReady because ___”. Example answers might include ‘I eat Welsh Beef’, or ‘I work a 12-hour shift before coming home to feed my three children.’

The digital campaign additionally promotes content on eatwelshbeef.com, with commentary from nutritional therapist, Sharon Ling and information on how Welsh Beef can be featured as a source of protein in a healthy diet.

Rhys Llywelyn, Market Development Manager at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), commented, “There are so many ‘protein added’ products on the market. We wanted to highlight that with Welsh Beef, protein comes as standard. This campaign provided us with a fun and light-hearted approach to supporting the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet that includes Welsh Beef. Dan was the ideal candidate to front our campaign, where his farming background and profession perfectly embody real world health and strength.”

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