Closed: Intra-field Variation

Timescale: 2017 - 2023
Project Lead: Dr Simon Bowen
Project Sponsor: TMAF and BBRO

Project Summary

Interpreting and managing the spatial heterogeneity in sugar beet yields by long-term monitoring of crops. INSPiRE (Interpreting & managing spatial performance in reality) A joint project with The Morley Agricultural Foundation (TMAF)

Main Objectives

BBRO was approached by TMAF to assist them with some long-term monitoring work on understanding how sugar yields can be improved.

The partnership will monitor spatial field variation in sugar beet crop performance to understand how key factors interact both spatially and temporally and how practical farming techniques can intervene to reduce intra -field variation and improve the overall yield performance on units of land. This project would provide a key platform and resource for areas of more specific research activity and links with other research teams in disciplines such as pest, weed, diseases, soil biology and nutrient management. The project has been agreed by TMAF and will be based at Morley Farms.

The approach would be applied to an agreed number of fields on the farm and whilst sugar beet crops would be the primary target, a cross rotational perspective would be followed. BBRO has some existing knowledge in this area and have undertaken some pilot studies assessing intra-field variation using UAV-based camera sensors.This area of work also has direct relevance to current BBRO yield benchmarking and Beet Yield Challenge activities.

The project will also link to the existing AHDB/BBRO project on measuring and managing soil biology.

Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry

  • This project is reporting on the first year of a long-term monitoring project which aims to explore intra-field variations in crop performance. Two fields were assessed in 2018, highlighting considerable variance in plant population and yield (65-122t/ha) within both fields
  • Measurement of a range of environmental variables also highlighted how variable these were. This reinforced the need for greater data sets and statistical analysis to draw conclusions about how these relate to crop performance.
  • The dry conditions in 2018 clearly affected plant establishment and early canopy development but late season canopy development following the rain resulted in good yields.
  • A greater focus on measuring seedbed conditions in relation to environmental variables is likely to highlight key relationships but it is anticipated that improving moisture retentive properties will be a key area to reducing intra-field variance.
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We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

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