Biog:  A senior researcher at Rothamsted Research. Toby joined Rothamsted in 2000 and has a background in Biology and a PhD in Chemical Ecology. He is convenor of the Association of Applied Biologists Biocontrol and IPM group, a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute and Visiting Lecturer at Nottingham University. The aim of his research is to improve scientific understanding of how insects interact with plants and to use this knowledge to develop novel approaches to manage pests. He is keen on delivering outcomes from research e.g. management of orange wheat blossom midge has improved as a direct result of earlier collaborative research and development work he was involved with. In collaboration with partners, Rothamsted provided pheromone monitoring traps, resistant varieties and management recommendations.
Research and Rothamsted vital for UK farming
Rothamsted Research is important to the future of UK farming with its roots in delivering innovation to agriculture. It is the birthplace of systematic agricultural research with a proud history of pioneering many innovations. It is where the first synthetic fertilisers and pyrethroid insecticides were invented and where the first systematic field experiments were started (in 1843, see the picture in this blog below).
Innovation is important because it allows more food to be produced using fewer resources – one of the huge pressures facing farming in the 21st century. Sir John Beddington, former Chief Scientific Adviser to UK Government and Chair of Rothamsted Research Board of Trustees has stated, “The challenge for global agriculture is to grow more food on not much more land, using less water, fertiliser and pesticides than we have historically done”.
Research work is fundamental to supporting farm businesses by developing smart ways of producing and protecting high value and high yield produce. Crop protection in particular is becoming more difficult, because pests are evolving resistance to pesticides and fewer new pesticides are coming onto the market, so new methods of pest management must be developed.
As an institute we have the opportunity to do research beyond the scope of the private sector which is primarily concerned with short term return on investment. We also research beyond the scope of the university sector which is more academic. The Mission Statement of Rothamsted is, “To perform world-class research to deliver knowledge, innovation and new practices to increase crop `productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.”
Picture: the broadbalk experiment at Rothamsted: running since 1843 when synthetic fertilisers were invented
Rothamsted Research has a scientific strategy, currently based on four themes that are integral to meeting 21st century agricultural challenges. These are:
  • 20:20 Wheat : increasing wheat productivity to yield 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years.
  • Cropping Carbon : Optimising carbon capture by grasslands and perennial energy crops, such as willow, to help underpin the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Designing seeds : Harnessing our expertise in seed biology and biochemistry to deliver improved health and nutrition through seeds.
  • Delivering Sustainable Systems : Designing, modelling and assessing sustainable agricultural systems that increase productivity while minimising environmental impact.
CropTec 2015:
Want to find out more about the latest technology & innovation, precision farming and research and development in the arable sector? make sure you visit CropTec on Tuesday 24th & Wednesday 25th November, East of England Showground, Peterborough.
To encourage knowledge exchange among the British farming community further, this year’s event is FREE for farmers to attend. You MUST pre-register online to ensure you receive your free place.
General pre-registered admission: £12, all visitors will charged £15 on the gate on the day of the event.
Rothamsted events:
Rothamsted holds a number of events throughout the year. For example on 27 October 2015, Rothamsted celebrates the International Year of Light with a, free-to-attend, public meeting entitled Illuminating Life’. Dr Smita Kurup, Head of Bioimaging, will discuss how advances in microscopy have allowed us to capture, and better understand, biological life. Dr Malcolm Hawkesford, Head of the Plant Biology and Crop Science Department, will discuss the use of images to evaluate crop performance. To see what’s going on, go to: