Bofin (British On-Farm Innovation Network) has successfully supported a group of farmers in delivering an on-farm trial to explore the properties of a wheat variety believed to be resistant to slugs.
Watkins 788, a wheat variety identified as one spurned by slugs, was sown on control plots with the aim of helping farmers move away from a reliance on chemical control measures.
The trial began with two objectives: to investigate the potential for on-farm research trial delivery against a background of restricted seed availability, and to develop and test a trial design investigating two wheatlines with potential for slug resistance.
The trials were run over 10 sites which were rigorously set up by farmers who visited the area twice a week to measure slug activity. The participants photographed crop growth and scored the growth of each plot. The next stage of the trial will be to harvest and report on the yield of each plot – it is currently too early to report this data. The trial’s first year was constricted by the dry summer, which led to a shortage in slug population, and a limited amount of the wheat seed.
The team behind the research, lead by professor Keith Walters, are positive about the trial after its first year, with the Year 2 development looking to extend the research further. Conclusions have been drawn which showed that the trial was conducted accurately, consistent results were shown between the sites (despite low slug numbers), and the trial design worked. The low slug numbers prevented clear conclusions on resistance levels, but continuing the trial over the coming years should provide sufficient data for further conclusions to be drawn.
Professor Walters said the experience has proved that farmers can lay out a trial and follow protocol that gives a valid scientific result. The implications of this are that trial expenses can be reduced and more time spent in the field as the farmers recorded the data as accurately as technicians would have done.
A new project for Bofin has now been announced: Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience against Slugs (SLIMERS). Bofin report that the project will come with a sizeable budget for on-farm trials.