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Farming

Maize trials’ positive results

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Amazing maize: Delivering higher yields in marginal areas

ESTABLISHING maize under biodegradable film has the potential to deliver an earlier harvest along with significantly higher yields and, in the case of most marginal maize growing areas, make the crop more consistently economically viable, according to ProCam Seeds and Traits Manager Will Miller.

Speaking at an open day at one of the company’s trials sites in Pembrokeshire, he said the opportunity to consistently deliver significantly higher yields within a safe harvest window justified the extra investment of the SAMCO system, but attention to detail was paramount.

“The SAMCO system of drilling maize under biodegradable film offers better and more consistent results for all maize growers, and can make the crop an option for those who struggle to grow a viable crop of maize in the open,” he said, “but this is only possible by growing the right varieties, applying the right agronomy and adhering to the overall system.

“It’s a mistake to assume that any maize variety will work when grown under film. For the system to deliver best returns, it is vital to select a variety that can cope with the increased temperature under the film, as well as one with high enough yield potential to benefit from the extra heat units provided.”

ProCam has been advising on the use of the SAMCO system for over 15 years. During that time, the company has tested many varieties to conclude on their current recommendations which are delivering good results for many growers across the UK. This research has been stepped up in 2017, with ten trials around the country comparing 20 different varieties grown under film with 15 key market varieties grown in the open. This equates to a total of 825 plots, individually harvested and analysed, with the primary aim of investigating which method of production gives the best financial return.

“Advances in technology have, in recent years, resulted in a better balance between the degradability and strength of film, as well as improvements of the engineering in the drill,” added Will Miller. “This has led to more consistent results, and the SAMCO system is now used successfully in over 20 countries around the world. Independent research from establishments like UCD in Ireland and AFBI in Northern Ireland is impressive, backing up results seen in the field. Our aim at ProCam is to fine-tune the system for UK growers, in both favourable and less favourable areas, so that we can help them achieve the best possible outcomes.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that maize under film has the potential to deliver excellent returns on investment for all maize growers. For some, that will be to achieve significantly higher yields of dry matter and energy with the same harvest timing as standard varieties grown in the open. For others, it will mean achieving two to three weeks earlier harvest without sacrificing yield, which can allow for a more timely entry into a following crop and reduce risk of soil damage and erosion.”

ProCam has run a series of field-scale trials across Wales and England in recent years, including the site in Pembrokeshire in 2017. The aim is to consolidate knowledge around the economic benefits of growing maize under biodegradable film, in favourable and less favourable areas of the UK. Specific trials results will be available through ProCam in the coming weeks

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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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