Hosted by CHAP International business Manager Jenna Ross, the webinar aimed to open the doors of CHAP delivery partner, Cranfield University and show how the facilities can be used to better understand the complex interaction between soil properties and plant growth.
CHAP Commercial Director Linsey Cresswell, gave a brief overview of the concept behind the Agri-Tech Centre and its partnership with Cranfield. The CHAP Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility, which hosts the Agri-Epi phenotyping gantry, offers a site for research and development unlike anywhere else in the UK. The space can accommodate large scale trials that can not only simulate field conditions but which also have the added bonus of being able to control the weather.
Agri-Epi Business Development Manager Duncan Ross outlined the challenges facing the industry that the centre could be used to address. The phenotyping platform has a range of cameras and sensors to (non-destructively) show plant responses to a variety of treatments and interventions.
Dr Toby Waine, Senior Lecturer in Applied Remote Sensing at Cranfield then talked about how agriculture and research was firmly in the digital age. The phenotyping platform at Cranfield can undertake thermal imaging, 3-D recording of plant growth at regular intervals, hyperspectral imaging and RGB (infra red) imaging, with camera resolution as low as 0.25 mm. The amount of data gathered can be a challenge to analyse but adds a new perspective to plant studies.
Two examples of recent trials were presented, the first involving chickpeas and quinoa, which was completed recently when UK weather conditions would have made field trials impossible. The hyperspectral images enabled researchers to quantify differences not visible to the human eye. In the second study, was to develop disease detection using camera images alone. This technology could be used by growers using drones to check crop health.
Dr Wilfred Otten, Professor of Soil Biophysics at Cranfield, then explained how the facility enabled him to research soil mechanics, root and soil interactions and how soil properties could influence crop growth. A particular focus was getting more out of the soil in terms of plant growth, while maintaining or improving soil health.
A study on various cover crops and their root growth was used as an example of the type of work now possible. A second commercial study, sponsored by Syngenta, examined whether a particular test involving soil properties was giving reliable data for regulatory purposes.
During the lively Q+A session at the end, one of the more important points of the webinar was emphasised, namely that the facilities at Cranfield are open to all and anyone interested using them can contact CHAP, Agri-Epi or Cranfield to discuss subjects matter.