The UK is world class when it comes to farm research, of that there can be no doubt. We have research institutions across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that employ some of the brightest minds and produce research which has the potential to change the face of agricultural output.
That is why it so encouraging to see the approach of Rothamsted Research towards its future programmes and its aim to cement its position as an international centre of excellence for farm science. This research gives our farmers a huge opportunity to advance in the years to come, assuming the regulatory environment allows them to harness the findings of such institutions.
However, while we have the best brains working on agricultural advancement, the ability to translate that science into practical on-farm applications has often been lacking. The gap between laboratory and field is sometimes vast as the void between research and on-farm reality proves too great to bridge.
Let us hope with its new vision for the future, Rothamsted, along with other institutions, provides farmers with the tools they really need. It is not as if the challenges we face as an industry are going to disappear. With the world’s population booming towards nine billion by 2050, a restrictive regime of chemical regulation, and a climate seemingly changing from year to year, the task of growing more with less is going nowhere.
But as this week’s Farmers Guardian shows, with features showcasing big data changing the face of a sheep farm, or precision farming at play on an arable unit, farmers are hungry for instruments which can help them boost yields and, ultimately, profitability.
The UK has always led the world in science. Let us hope it continues to do so, but in such a way that those out in the field can harness the findings from the lab.