Agronomy: Stockbridge at the forefront of agricultural innovation in Yorkshire

In a new series of features for The Yorkshire Post, the team from Stockbridge Technology Centre at Cawood near Selby will be offering an insight into the latest crop production methods, as well as practical advice for growers and updates on weather patterns, soil temperatures and pest and disease activity.

Expect more insect activity in the fields as the warmer weather arrives, advises Stockbridge Technology Centre's Dr David George.

It is fair to say that we have been at the forefront of delivering innovation to the crop production industry since the end of the Second World War, and we have gone on to become an independent charity in 2001.

Our goal here is to deliver environmentally sustainable and high-yielding farming methods through applied research and development on our 200-acre mixed farm. In order for us to do this, we employ a team of 35 skilled farm workers, technicians, agronomists, entomologists, pathologists, plant physiologists and an education team. By working together, we are striving to bridge the ‘knowledge transfer gap’ between academics and farmers, working across the arable and horticultural sectors to validate and demonstrate novel approaches to crop production that may be of benefit to the industry.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Our role extends further too and through our award-winning education programme we offer the wider community opportunities to benefit from outdoor learning and an understanding of where our food comes from. We are currently involved in pioneering horticultural projects aimed at increasing the availability of plant protection products, as well as raising awareness of the impact that LED lighting can have on extending the growing season of crops produced in glasshouses and increasing the uptake of urban farming systems - an area of work that was recently featured on the BBC’s Countryfile programme.

On the arable production side of things, we are busy demonstrating new crop varieties and exploring the efficiency of polycultural approaches to crop production, such as growing cereal in land planted with clover to improve soil health and resilience.

In another area of research, we have joined forces with Cranfield University in Bedfordshire and Manterra Ltd of Sancton in East Yorkshire to develop a ground-breaking way of scanning soil nutrients so that nitrogen can be applied at a variable rate, according to the health of the soil. Hopefully this will bring about more efficient methods for farmers to apply crop fertilisers.

We also run a plant clinic to help identify diseases, host a Met Office weather station and we are a core partner in the government-funded Applied Crop Science Innovation Centre. As a LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Innovation Centre, we’ll be taking part in Open Farm Sunday on June 11.

So what does our weather station say this week? Well, soil temperatures, which are taken at a depth of 30cm, edged into double figures at the close of March and have remained above 10 degrees Celsius ever since. Air temperatures are on the rise, peaking at 21.8C in the four weeks leading up to April 13. Minimum temperatures at grass level remain variable - a low of -1.1 degrees Celsius was recorded during the same period.

As the weather warms and daylight hours get longer, expect to see more activity from a range of insects and invertebrates, which will have responded well to the warm and sunny conditions.