ADAS Boxworth Open Day

Categories: guest blogger
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Published on: June 26, 2014

Charlotte White, crop physiologist at environmental and agricultural consultancy ADAS, reports from the ADAS Boxworth Open Day where science from ADAS is showcased alongside work funded by Defra and HGCA as well as private enterprises. It is a great opportunity for scientists, agronomists, farmers and seed/agrochemical representatives to network and discuss their needs and current work.

adas boxworth

On the 3rd of June ADAS Boxworth in Cambridgeshire opened its fields to welcome around 200 visitors. The rather wet morning, which made the behind the scenes setup soggy, dissipated in time for the mid-day opening and the afternoon was lovely and sunny. Visitors included farmers, agronomists, members of the seed and agrochemical industry, students and the farming press.

On arrival visitors were welcomed with a complementary hog roast and could register for BASIS and NRoSO points. At reception there was a demonstration of electrical weeding, which had a lot of interest, along with updates on the SCEPTRE project, the fertiliser value of anaerobic digestate and the HGCA stand. There were then two routes: wheat followed by oilseed rape or oilseed rape followed by wheat. The majority took the latter.

The oilseed rape field had a number of Defra, HGCA and commercially funded project demonstration plots. These included optimising seed rates/row widths, and the project I was demonstrating, which looks at precision applications of late foliar nitrogen fertiliser to increase yield and feed value of the rape-meal (CC: described in this UKBRC factsheet). Dr Steve Ellis spoke about pollen beetle thresholds and neonicotinoids, while Dr Faye Richie was on hand to answer questions on oilseed rape diseases relevant to this season and give updates on the latest findings from the pathology group. The industry variety and product demo plots appeared to have a high yield potential and formed the perfect environment to catch up with sponsors and collaborators. As you turned the corner in the field it was a surprise to find Ken Smith stood in a soil pit promoting good soil management on behalf of HGCA, a topic which always generates a lot of interest and gets people talking!

The wheat field was across the farm road and had a similar mix of government, levy and industry funded project demonstration plots, industry stands and variety and product plots. Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley explained the yield enhancement network (YEN), an innovation competition to help growers break existing cereal yield records. The demonstration plots, testing ‘innovative ideas’ to maximise grain filling, included irrigation, reflective soil strips and plot cooling (if you are interested in entering the YEN competition, visit the website). The triticale demo plots also received a lot of attention and Dr Sarah Clarke and Dr Daniel Kindred were on hand to discuss the benefits of triticale – it out-yields wheat as a second cereal – and to promote the LearN project, which is using a novel on-farm approach to investigate nitrogen monitoring and management. Jonathan Blake was there to discuss the HGCA Fungicide Performance work, and had some interesting demonstration plots to show yellow rust and septoria tritici control. In addition to these and other interesting research demonstration plots, national ADAS experts in weed, pest and disease management were around to answer all manner of questions. Visitors were kept lingering long after the 4pm close.

For me, it was a long and invigorating day and great to talk to farmers and agronomists about their experiences with late application of foliar nitrogen and to provide an update on the latest project findings, as well as seeing what everyone else in ADAS has been working on. Don’t worry if you missed it, keep your eye out for flyers for future open days!

Image credit: Charlotte White

June GARNish is here!

Categories: conferences, GARNet
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Published on: June 19, 2014

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The June edition of GARNish is now available to download! Open up (or scroll down) for:

  • The latest news and views from our community
  • A report from our April Software Carpentry Bootcamp
  • A guide to finding and sharing microarray data on GEO
  • A list of equipment funded by the ALERT13 bid
  • An overview of the OpenPlant synthetic biology centre
  • An introduction to the great outreach work of the British Society of Plant Pathologists
  • Spotlights on the University of Worcester and Queen’s University Belfast

Summer at GARNet

Categories: Arabidopsis, GARNet
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Published on: June 13, 2014
Cosmos Flower by Alfred Borchard, via Free Images
Cosmos Flower by Alfred Borchard, via Free Images

A summer of conferences

We’re gearing up to go to a few major conferences before our own in September, so watch out for Ruth, Lisa, Jim or me at EPSO, SEB, ASPB, SynBio SEED and ICAR.

There are loads of UK meetings for plant scientists coming up: Early career events New Phytologist Next Generation ScientistsSCI Young Researchers in Agrisciences and Frontiers in Plant ResearchBreeding Plants to Cope with Future Climate Change; the CPIB Summer School in Mathematical Modelling; and the HvCP workshops.

If you’re attending these or any other event this summer and want to try your hand at writing a meeting report or blog post, please get in touch – we’re always looking for guest bloggers!


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GARNet 2014: The Ongoing Green Revolution

For us, the biggest event of the summer is the finale – GARNet 2014 in September. Our conference is the biggest Arabidopsis event in Europe this year and we have a fantastic line-up, so it’s an unmissable opportunity to catch up with collaborators and colleagues past, present and future. We’re taking early bird registrations and abstract submissions for short talks and posters until 30 June. If you’re a post-doc or PhD student, you could win a bursary to cover the cost of your trip! For more information, go to:


BIS Capital Consultation

Before all the inspiring talks and networking, we’re working on a response to this BIS consultation about capital investment until 2020. Capital investment in science infrastructure will total over £5 billion between 2015 and 2020, and BIS are asking the whole STEM community for input on how this investment will be managed. GARNet is putting together a response and if you have anything to input, please do email me. If you want to know more, the 110 page consultation document is here. For a bitesize overview, I suggest you take a look at these two excellent Guardian Science Blogs by Stephen Curry and Claire Viney. Also, the Guardian is hosting a live online Q&A session with a panel, to include David Willetts, on Monday lunchtime.


GARNish … coming next week

It can’t really be summer at GARNet without the June edition of GARNish – don’t worry, it will be with you next week!

Adjusting the Circadian Clock

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Published on: June 3, 2014

As highlighted in Lisa’s excellent weekly Arabidopsis Research Round-up two weeks ago, a paper on the feedback loop mechanisms that give the circadian clock flexibility was recently published in New Phytologist Early View (DOI: 10.1111/nph.12853Open Access) by GARNet 2014 speaker Andrew Millar. Here first author Laura Dixon, post-doctoral researcher in flowering regulation in the Department of Crop Genetics at the John Innes Centre, explains the research.

Dixon May2014
Arabidopsis thaliana (left) and single celled green alga Ostreococcus tauri

The circadian clock is an innate time-keeping mechanism found in most organisms, and has a period of about 24 hours. The circadian rhythm syncs to the environment as the clock mechanism adjusts to long or short photoperiods, or environmental summer and winter, and so co-ordinates many biological processes with respect to time of day and season. How quickly these adjustments can occur varies between species, and is believed to be a property of how many interlocking feedback loops the circadian clock mechanism is comprised of.

To empirically test the idea that clock flexibility is linked to the number of interlocking feedback loops within the circadian clock mechanism, we compared the fairly complex Arabidopsis thaliana clock to the very reduced clock of the smallest free-living eukaryote, unicellular green alga Ostreococcus tauri. We use A. thaliana as a plant model as it is a simple system relative to often very complex crop species. Many crop species are polyploid and so have very complicated signalling pathways; Arabidopsis is simpler but still contains complex regulation which can inform crop research. The Arabidopsis clock is a network of interlocking feedback loops. Groups of gene families encode clock components and at least 10 photoreceptor proteins.

We switched photoperiod conditions directly between short day and long day and observed what happened in the two systems. In combination with network analysis through mathematical modelling of the proposed possible clock structures, we showed that flexibility of entrainment to environmental conditions is a property of both the number of interlocking loops and the number of light inputs to the clock mechanism. Our research highlights one of the mechanisms through which circadian clock transcriptional and translational loops are flexible and adaptable in response to environmental conditions.

Images: A. thaliana from GARNet; TEM of Ostreococcus from Eikrem and Throndsen University of Oslo

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June 2014

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