Food crop production in the UK has betteropportunities for growth and development than almost anywhere in Europe;exciting agronomy-led opportunities which we need to seize with both hands in adetermined way with the right strategic investment.
This was the upbeat assessment of current arable industry prospects by thechief executive of Agrii parent, Origin Enterprises, Tom OMahony at theagronomy companys Northern Farming Conference at Bishop Burton College recently.
Speaking to more than 500 growers, crop advisers and specialists attending thisyears event, he stressed that UK farming was well-placed to take advantage ofgrowing world affluence and food demand through sustainable, research-basedproductivity improvements.
We have to accept that seasonal production and market challenges are aninevitable part of farming, he stressed. And these days we have to add theextra challenges of a progressive decline in agrochemical innovation, loss ofvaluable chemistry and increasing regulation as well as CAP reform.
Looking beyond these, however, we see huge strategic opportunities for UKfarming and agribusiness in general and crop production, in particular. Notleast for its long heritage and reputation as a quality food producer,excellent access to global markets, track-record of innovative researchadoption and well-proven resilience and dynamism.
This thinking has informed OriginEnterprises development of Agrii from its strong Masstock, Dalgety, CSC andUAP roots with a carefully structured additional 20 million R&D investmentprogramme. Through it the business aims to provide its 300-plus fieldspecialists with agri-intelligence resources second-to-none in helping arableproducers overcome the most important knowledge gaps limiting crop productivityand profitability.
As part of this programme Mr OMahony announced a six-fold expansion ofAgrii research and development across northern England and Scotland to wellover 6000 trial plots in the current season under northern R&D manager, JimCarswell, working from two new technical centres the first under constructionat Bishop Burton and the second to be unveiled later in the year in Scotland.
In addition to hosting the new Agriinorthern England technical centre, he explained that the partnership withBishop Burton forms part of the structured technical training and developmentprogramme put in place to develop and inspire the rapid increase in youngagronomists and advisers being attracted to the business.
At the same, it and our increasingly close relationships with other leadingcentres of educational and research excellence are designed to encourage andnurture the young farming ideas and enthusiasm at all levels we see as vital toUK farmings exciting future, he pointed out.
As an industry, we know 15-20 t/ha shouldbe an achievable target for UK wheat production. Equally, we appreciate how much lessvulnerable cereal and oilseed rape production needs to be to climaticvariability and weed, disease and pest pressures. And we understand the hugepotential precision farming technologies offer for improving crop productivity,profitability and sustainability.
We see Agriis role as providing growers with the most effective products andsystems and the most appropriate advice to make the most of them by harnessingthe latest research-based understanding.
Tom OMahony has no doubt that future crop production progress lies more innovel genetics and improved agronomic regimes than new agro-chemistry. He regards the scale and research-based focusof Agrii as essential in identifying the best of these, making them practicablefor UK growers and bringing them to the market in ways that offer the greatestimmediate and lasting benefits.
Our well-timed and carefully-focussedinvestment will be bringing forward an increasing range new technologies,products and approaches that growers can rely on to address the challenges theyface and make the most of the many opportunities they have with the support ofthe best-informed advice in the business, he concluded. Despite the currentshort-term challenges, we are hugely excited by the prospects for UK farmingand the leading role we shall be playing in turning them into reality in theyears ahead.