Keywords: Professional advisers, advice, crop nutrition, knowledge extension, farm businesses.
Across the UK’s farming activities professional advisers within the agricultural supply industry, including fertiliser companies, play a vital role in delivering practical advice on integrated farm management. This advice helps individual farm businesses improve their competitiveness and resource efficiency, whilst contributing to the delivery of government policies and environmental objectives.
Efficient and effective crop nutrition is crucial to meeting many of the key challenges facing the agricultural industry at present and in the future. Therefore professional advisers from fertiliser companies have a key role in ensuring that efficient and effective crop nutrition, particularly in optimising nutrient resource efficiency, is put into practice on farms across the UK.
The challenges faced by policy-makers in communicating environmental advice to farmers, with a view to changing practices are widely documented. Therefore, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) developed a Ring of Confidence (RoC) model which demonstrates that farmers have an inner ring of professional advisers, who are highly influential as they are considered as being part of the farm management team. In contrast, there is an outer ring of advisers who are considered by farmers as being positioned outside the management team. They largely deliver advice that is directly related to policy or legislation, and are generally less influential on the business decisions made by a farmer. The RoC model is underpinned by a range of independent studies demonstrating the value of professional advisers in assisting policy makers in the implementation of policies and in changing farmer practices. With reference to crop nutrition advice, there is evidence of improvements in nitrogen use efficiencies in the UK for key major crops.
Professional advice is supported by comprehensive research and development programmes, which underpin advice on crop nutrition, as well as other technical advice areas. For AIC members the investment in research and development (R&D) is estimated at over £45 million a year. Professional advisers have a key role in translating research from the science-base in a practical way that farmers understand to encourage uptake of new technology and practices on farms. In terms of qualifications and training, schemes and courses support the practical experience that crop advisers/agronomists gain in the field and intelligence from R&D activities.
Through their interactions with multiple farmers, professional advisers including those within fertiliser companies, have the capacity to engage effectively with a significant proportion of the farming population in the UK. At a time where policy-makers are considering the framework for future advice delivery, to meet the on-going requirement for a Farm Advisory Service, the potential of professional advisers for advice extension must be fully realised.
Corrina Gibbs, Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), Confederation House, East of England Showground, Peterborough, PE2 6XE, UK.
28 pages, 5 figures, 3 tables, 27 references.