Welcome to Waitrose CTP Cohort 1

Waitrose CTP welcomed its first cohort of students at the end of October for a 3 day Induction Training Event. This was held at the scenic venue of Forrest Hills at Lancaster University.

All students attended the event and some students had the company of their academic supervisors.

During the event the students and supervisors participated in a series of activities including training sessions and team building outdoor pursuits.

Carly Stevens, the Waitrose CTP academic director, introduced the programme before handing over to the students. All the students introduced themselves and discussed their project. The talks from each student were very engaging and full of enthusiasm for their PhD project.

Other training sessions within the 3 days included Fast track your impact and how to manage your PhD. Plus an inspirational presentation and workshop delivered by Alan Wilson, overall lead and non-academic director of the Waitrose CTP. Alan discussed leadership and management skills, good behaviours and attitudes in business and emotional awareness. The workshop was received very well by the students with one student commenting “it was the best part of the event”.

Day two was the day for the students and supervisors to get to know each other. The outdoor team building activities included raft building, archery and problem solving puzzles. The group had fun raft building on the lake. The rafts were strong enough to sail across the water and sturdy enough for all brave sailors to stand up on- great work CTP team.

Thank you to everybody who took time out of their busy schedules to attend; it was a great start to the CTP project.

Here are some photos from the event:



Filling the intercropping info gap

Two crops or one? Sometimes, growing two crops simultaneously on the same piece of land – called intercropping – can benefit farmers. But it needs careful planning and resource management.

In some parts of Africa, farmers intercrop sorghum – a grain – and peanuts. But they face a major information gap. There hasn’t been much research on optimal levels of fertilizer use for intercropping sorghum and peanuts in these areas.

A new study has filled this information gap. Researchers from Niger, Mali, and the United States have developed a method to help farmers determine how much fertiliser to apply when intercropping.

NIAB EMR expands fruit quality and development research programme

Dr Andy Simkin

UK horticultural crop research organisation NIAB EMR has appointed Dr Andrew Simkin to lead its emerging fruit quality and development research programme.

Dr Simkin will be expanding NIAB EMR’s capabilities in fruit quality research in perennial and annual horticultural crops, tackling the challenge of improving the flavour and health benefits associated with fruit consumption. He will be joining NIAB EMR’s increasingly successful Genetics, Genomics and Breeding (GGB) Team, responsible for Malling Centenary, one of the most sought after strawberry varieties currently in the marketplace, as well as world-leading perennial genomics expertise, such as the BBSRC and industry-funded international consortium sequencing the octoploid strawberry.

The global nitrate time-bomb

Researchers have quantified for the first time the long term threat to global drinking water posed by agricultural pollution trapped in the rocks beneath our feet.

In a paper published in Nature Communications, researchers from the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Lancaster University show that vast quantities of nitrate are stored in the rocky layer between our soils and the water table. Using modelling techniques they estimate that rocks contain up to 180 million tonnes of nitrate, twice the amount believed to be stored in soil.

Sensors applied to plant leaves warn of water shortage

Forgot to water that plant on your desk again? It may soon be able to send out an SOS.

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) have created sensors that can be printed onto plant leaves and reveal when the plants are experiencing a water shortage. This kind of technology could not only save neglected houseplants but, more importantly, give farmers an early warning when their crops are in danger, says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the new study.

UK backs neonics ban

In a government statement today, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says the UK supports further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids because of their effects on bees and other pollinators.

The announcement, says the statement, follows advice in October from the UK government’s advisory body on pesticides, the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP). Scientific evidence now suggests that the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids are greater than previously understood, says the ECP advice.