Industry representative: Dr Ed Moorhouse
HDC project cost: £67,878
In-field variability in crop maturity, and therefore harvest date and yield, is still a significant issue in field grown lettuce. Crops are planted at uniform spacing by machine, with genetically uniform material, but variability in crop development still occurs leading to variation in head weights and maturity at harvest, reducing the opportunity for 100% single pass harvesting. This variability may also extend to postharvest quality responses. Variability in growth and development may be explained by heterogeneity in soil properties such as pH, nutrients and water availability. Historical yield mapping and/or traditional pre-season soil sampling can help identify different soil zones. It is now possible to map spatial soil variability using electromagnetic induction (EMI) or near infra-red (NIR) systems can identify zones with relatively different soil water properties which correlate with harvest yields in lettuce. Before developing precision input management for leafy vegetables, it is necessary to identify the parameters of zones i.e. how big a difference in soil properties (pH, nutrients, water) is needed before it becomes a distinct management zone.
Aims and objectives:
This programme of work aims to identify the key soil parameters influencing crop variability, define critical relative values for the soil parameters to define specific zones and demonstrate the potential for new precision farming techniques in leafy veg production. Of equal importance, this project will develop an applied scientist who would be well suited to working in the UK industry across a range of crops.