Agri-Tech Research Innovation Accelerator

    AgRIA (Agri-Tech Research Innovation Accelerator), supported for three years by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is led by Rothamsted Research in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire, University College London, Cranfield University, Green Triangle, and Rothamsted Enterprises. Elemental Digest has had its application for a research programme into the potential immune-enhancing capabilities of Thallo our organo-mineral fertiliser accepted in Jan 2020.

    The Problem. Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to insect pests, pathogens and weeds. Cost-effective products and strategies for pest management are critical for delivering global food security. Since the 1950s-1960s, major advances in agricultural pest management came about with the advent and widespread adoption of synthetic pesticides. In 2016, the global market for crop protection products was US$45bn per annum, with pesticides accounting for 90% of this market. In 2019, however, environmental, regulatory, technical and evolutionary (resistance) pressures mean that the pesticide-dominated paradigm for crop protection is reaching a tipping point. There is an urgent need to provide a new generation of interventions against pests for sustainable intensification of agricultural systems.

    The Solution. A solution to the problem of limited pesticide use in crop protection is to develop new interventions that are based on chemical ecology, specifically plant volatile defence signalling that modifies the behaviour of insect pests and their natural enemies. Such interventions can ultimately be delivered via smart crop plants that respond rapidly to early onset of pest damage by upregulation in production and emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as stress signals. These VOCs can protect crops by repelling incoming insect pests and recruiting natural enemies for conservation biological control. Substances, including small molecules and lipophilic materials, that can elicit the production of such VOCs are considered as crop protection tools that switch on defence in crop plants.

     Our Idea. A novel fertiliser (Thallo®), made from abattoir waste and other recycled industrial products, has been shown to perform as well as conventional fertilisers in controlled environment pot trials.  Our idea is to develop Thallo® as a uniquely combined fertiliser / plant protection treatment for crops that can simultaneously improve crop performance and health in a reduced pesticide background.

    Project fit into AgRIA. The project fits into the AgRIA Theme of sustainable and green products as it aims to provide a low carbon alternative material that can be deployed for crop protection and reduce the carbon footprint of pesticide deployment in crop production. We hope to see this underway from March 2020.