Research

On-farm research is a key aspect of MicroFarm activities. We might call it testing, trialling or even just giving things a go.  But to know if our apparent results are meaningful, we need to apply basic scientific testing principles.

We recommend the “On-Farm Trial Guide” by Peter Stone, Andrea Pearson and Maaike Bendall. This easy to read series published in association with the Foundation for Arable Research covers all the things needed to run successful on-farm trials. It is available from LandWISE.

Trials run  at the MicroFarm  include:

  • The effect of plant growth regulators on flowering and yield of vining peas
  • The effect of fine mesh cover cloth on the growth, development and yield of a range of crops
  • Whether a simplified herbicide programme can provide adequate weed control on green beans
  • The yield of sweetcorn using alternative nitrogen fertilisers
  • From where in the soil profile plants access their water (peas, beans, sweetcorn and onions)
A plot of peas treated with Gibberellic Acid showed significant growth change, but not necessarily a difference in yield
A plot of peas treated with Gibberellic Acid showed significant growth change, but not necessarily a difference in yield

The MicroFarm has been a test bed for technologies, including:

  • Buried drip irrigation
  • Soil moisture sensor arrays connected via wireless network
  • Crop cover cloths
  • Nodulator as a treatment for legumes
  • Crop canopy cover and vigour assessment by UAV mounted camera sensors
  • A smartphone application to assess and map crop ground cover
Nodulator applied to plantings out of long term pasture showed significantly enhanced development of nitrogen fixing nodules.
Nodulator applied to plantings out of long term pasture showed significantly enhanced development of nitrogen fixing nodules.

2015 marks the beginning of a three year research project with Onions NZ and Plant and Food Research. This Sustainable Farming Fund project aims to provide the industry with tools to monitor and manage these issues to enable the industry maintain sustainable growth.

The 2014 onion crop as mapped by a smartphone application that assesses ground cover  fraction
The 2014 onion crop as mapped by a smartphone application that assesses ground cover fraction

 

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