Top crops lecturer is crowned in research-in-practice competition

The winner of a crops challenge for lecturers at Harper Adams University has been named as Dr Ivan Grove.

Last year a task was set to grow the most profitable crop of wheat that achieves the best gross margin whilst satisfying commercial standards.

Crops lecturers and technical staff batted against each other to put their expertise into practice, with Dr Grove winning the competition by £20 per hectare.

Dr Grove, Senior Lecturer in Nematode Management and Agronomy Research, said: “The challenge didn’t get off to a good start due to the awful weather in September last year, and due to this damage, the whole competition was re-drilled in an alternative location.

“This shows the benefit of such a competition, because many growers also had failed or delayed drilling. Before re-drilling, the participants evaluated their seed rates and adjusted them to compensate for the later timing.

“Once established, T0, T1, T2 and T3 fungicide applications were selected from a range of options. Some opted for the minimum input, whilst others went for very strategic applications with dose rates considered based on disease presence and predicted pressure. Following the cold spring, it turned out to be a good year and yields ranged from 8-9.75 tonnes per hectare.”

The competition was devised by Dr Grove to encourage staff to put their expertise into practice on a competitive basis.

All are involved with ‘crop production’ modules at Harper Adams and the competition strived to challenge them to justify each decision made, and not just say what they would do as in lectures.

Dr Grove added: “As the instigator of the challenge, it’s a good feeling to be the winner as there are some good agronomists here at Harper Adams.

“You can spend a lot of money or you can take risks, but my plan was to balance out the two, giving me a winning gross margin of £1026 per hectare, just £20 per hectare ahead of runner up, Louisa Dines.

“As a first attempt at the competition it was a good start and now the results are out the 2013 crop will be equally as competitive.

“This year we have added a little replication into the trial so that each challenger has two identical plots from which to get the results. Just to make it interesting, we are growing the variety ‘Torch’.”

The challenge is an annual event sponsored by Dr Andy Wilcox, Head of the Crop and Environment Sciences Department, with staff using the information gained for teaching purposes.