A great year for farmer-led research!
Working alongside other organisations, the Soil Association plays a key role in supporting farmer-led agricultural research through Innovative Farmers.
The programme is a network of farmers and growers working together with researchers and advisors to trial practical solutions to the stark challenges that farming faces.
This year alone, Innovative Farmers has run almost 60 field labs with farmers and growers from all over the country testing solutions to the issues they care about most.
“Working with other farmers is like speeding up time. You get 50 harvests each but working in a group of 10, you can learn in one year what might otherwise take a decade”. – Innovative Farmers triallist Andrew Howard, Bockhanger Farm
Innovative Farmers recently published the 2019 Field Lab Journal that showcases a few of the projects – the reason for conducting them, the methods they used and the results they’ve seen.
These results can have really important implications, not just for them but for farming in general. For example, field labs have found evidence to suggest that:
Drone technology could help farmers identify the right time to harvest potatoes
Farmers currently use dig tests in different parts of the field to judge the right time to harvest potatoes. Using drones could help map out a more accurate picture of when the potatoes are ready, providing a more consistent potato product that is easier to sell to buyers. This has potential to reduce wastage, reduce inputs and the farm’s bottom line.
Hot Water Seed Treatment could reduce fungal disease pathogens by up to 100% in chard
Leaf spot is a common fungal disease affecting leafy greens. This field lab found that hot water seed treatment could control up to 100% of some leaf spot-causing pathogens. This has potential to increase yield and marketability for vegetable farmers and provides a cheaper alternative to chemical seed treatments.
It is exciting to see these results, and with farmer-led research catching the eye of large agricultural research funders, the sky is the limit for what farmers can discover working together.