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Crops under the microscope in Duchy College study to aid Westcountry farmers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 01, 2012

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Crops under the microscope in Duchy College study to aid Westcountry farmers

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New research taking place at Duchy College in Cornwall could provide vital information for the development of farm crops in the Westcountry.

The college was selected to host and run the Cropping Systems pilot scheme, which is being paid for by the Home Grown Cereals Authority, the Government body to which cereal growers pay a levy.

The scheme was set up in response to levy payers asking for more regional information for farmers.

Results of the variety, agronomy and pathology trials will give farmers new information on the best chance of growing a viable crop to meet local industry requirements. If successful, the project is due to be rolled out at selected sites across the country in the future.

The one-year pilot scheme will include winter wheat and barley trials, as well as hybrid winter barley and commercial winter wheat trials, looking into cereals that are particularly suited to the region.

The trial crops sown at Duchy College will be monitored throughout the growing seasons for specific characteristics and disease susceptibility.

This is particularly relevant in the Westcountry due to the high annual rainfall and mild climate and it should provide early information for the rest of the country.

At the end of the season the trials will be harvested and yields recorded. Dr Simon Oxley, senior manager of the Home Grown Cereals Authority, said: "We are seeking to work with local research partners, agronomists and end-users to develop a system which will allow growers to go online and see how local weather conditions impact on disease and yields and access information relevant to their current needs.

"The aim is to provide a more detailed comparison of the performance of existing popular local varieties with up-and-coming varieties. The aim is to gather real local information on crop development, disease pressures and variety performance."

Duchy College farm director James Coumbe said: "We hope that this will have great benefits for all in the region.

"The trials will be a great resource for all those studying at Duchy College and direct involvement by the students will be achieved during the disease monitoring and testing of milling and bread-making characteristics.

"Students will also have access to the crop trials during the year for monitoring progress."

A number of open days will be run throughout the year giving local farmers the chance to assess progress and results.

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