Hear from BGS sponsored young scientist Rory Shaw, on the EGF 2014

Hear from BGS sponsored young scientist Rory Shaw, on the EGF 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

To be honest, I’m not really a grassland scientist, I’m more of a soil scientist with an interest in nitrogen cycling. In fact, I had not heard of the EGF until my PhD sponsors (EBLEX, HCC, DairyCo and QMS) and supervisors suggested that I should go along and present some of my work at the EGF2014 conference in Aberystwyth. So I dutifully wrote my paper entitled “Developing an in situ sensor for real time monitoring of soil nitrate concentration”, which was accepted for an oral presentation and then set about finding some funding. Thankfully, the British Grassland Society accepted my application for the Jan Crichton Travel Bursary, which enabled me to take part in the EGF2014.

So on Monday I made the drive through Snowdonia from Bangor University to Aberystwyth, with an open mind of what to expect from the conference.  As I settled into the first session in the Great Hall, I was struck, firstly by the number of people at the conference and secondly, by the weight of the conference proceedings. It appears that Grassland science is a much bigger field and more important than I had envisaged. Over the next few days I was thoroughly educated on the diversity of grasslands within Europe and their respective uses. As we look towards a challenging future, in which the increasing demand for food is set against the need to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural production, it is clear that continued innovation is required. My impression from the conference is that there is no magic wand for improving on-farm efficiencies, but that improvements are likely to be achieved by “the aggregation of marginal gains”. As such, it is of paramount importance that all of these “marginal gains” can be converted into realistic and practical advice for farmers and industry.

On a more personal level, the conference only reinforced my love of clover – what a great plant. It seems crazy that large amounts of synthetic N fertilizers are added to perennial ryegrass monocultures instead of utilising nature’s own N fixers. In addition to this, using clovers will increase the diversity of ecological niches, both within the sward and the soil, as well as having beautiful flowers, which are much loved by pollinating insects. Creating productive and robust multi-swards can only be a good thing for both the environment and industry.

Thanks again to BGS for the funding and to the EGF for organising an excellent conference and opening my eyes to the diversity and importance of grassland science.



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