Upbeat Cereals 2016 as farmers build knowledge

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Cereals, the UK’s leading arable technical event took place at Chrishall Grange in Cambridgeshire on June 15 – 16 attracting visitors in search of information on new products, practical advice and insight into industry issues.

“The first day was exceptionally busy with over 1,200 tickets scanned in the first 20 minutes of the gates opening,” explains Cereals Event Director Jon Day, “and from the exhibitor comments so far, we know that while times are tough, our visitors are seeking the agronomic information, market insight and product knowledge that will ensure their businesses are sustainable now and in the future.”

Registration by BASIS members at this year’s Cereals event set a new record of over 1,700 during the two days.

BASIS Chief Executive Stephen Jacob commented: “our stand has seen visitor numbers increase for the past nine years in a row. This year we saw general attendance increase by more than 12%.”

With over 500 organisations exhibiting at the event, most of the 24,000 visitors attending the event took full advantage of the opportunities to network and meet existing and new suppliers..

“We were very busy, especially on the first day with many good enquiries and demo requests,” says Andrew Gamble, Marketing Manager of Väderstad. “As a smart, well organised show Cereals is ideal for us to present new products and meet and greet existing and potential customers.”

Everything we needed

For Will Mallon, Managing Director of WM Agri 2016 was his first Cereals. “Cereals is the perfect opportunity for visitors to see and compare machinery. For example, we’d a customer that had been interested in our 5.3m maize blade for a while but wanted to see it for real before committing – he bought it there and then.”

Cutting edge technology

Rothamsted Research showcased cutting edge technology in crop monitoring and innovative approaches to controlling pests, weeds and diseases at a joint-stand with partner institutes, which also receive strategic funding from the BBSRC, such as the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

“Our hexacopter drone and a model of the Institute’s ‘Field Scanalyzer’ crop phenotyping facility caught the attention of technology enthusiasts,” says Dr Matina Tsalavouta Head of Communications & Public Engagement, “but for many farmers, the major talking-point was blackgrass and Cereals provided the opportunity for us to describe our work on herbicide-resistance and for farmers and scientists to share knowledge and experiences of controlling the weed.”

Other key areas at Cereals included improved cultivation and better soil health with The Soil Pit – a new feature for 2016 sponsored by NIAB TAG and Rothamsted Research. It showed how cover crops can influence resilience to flood and drought, organic matter accumulation, leaching prevention, nutrient capture and nitrogen fixing.

“The Soil Pit was very popular. It allowed people to see what happens below ground,” says Dr Tsalavouta, “by inviting them to step 1.5 metres beneath the field surface and view layers in the soil.”

One of the busiest events of the two day show was the Brexit debate hosted by the Oxford Farming Conference in a packed Arable Conference marquee. With close to 400 visitors keen to hear both sides, Farming Today’s Anna Hill brought some challenging questions asked by the audience to the speakers. Each participant was given a voting slip – and asked to leave by the ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ exit – the results were in keeping with other polls done on the day:

Cereals event ‘Brexit Polls’

OUT: 64%

IN: 36%

“The panel session on the loss of active ingredients was also very well attended,” said Martin Davies, Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) Chairman, “giving event visitors a full and concerning update on the challenging regulatory environment in Europe.”

Cereals ‘must sees’

Visitors attending took full advantage of the Cereals ‘must-sees’ including displays of crop plots, business and specialist areas, machinery, post-harvest technology, renewables, spraying technology and equipment. A full programme of demonstrations took place in the Syngenta Sprays and Sprayers Arena.

Another first for 2016 was the event’s official support of a charity – the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I).

Natalie Reed, Marketing Manager for Cereals comments: “2016 is the first year that we have had an official charity, and we are delighted at the support R.A.B.I has received from our exhibitors and visitors – thank you to everyone who took the time to find out more about this important charity and it’s work, and for all the donations.”

Stephen Noble, Head of Fundraising & Development at Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution continues: “We were thrilled to be chosen as the charity partner, as we recognised the huge potential of an industry-leading event to spread the word about R.A.B.I’s work and we grabbed the chance to make some brilliant new contacts over the two days, while cementing existing relationships. Best of all, we raised around £3,750; the vast majority of which was from collections on the exit gates, alongside a small raffle and calendar sales. We cannot thank Haymarket Events and Cereals enough for this wonderful opportunity.”

Plans underway for 2017

With the success of 2016 still fresh and top of mind - and #cereals16 topping 6,030 tweets this month – work is already underway on plans for new features for 2017’s event which will focus on areas of current relevance to growers from soil and drainage, to specialist crops and specialist business advice. These concept areas include:

The Specialist Crop Zone: dedicated to exploring novel plants and varieties that can thrive in the current agronomic environment, have added value and potential for the future.

‘Tomorrow’s World’: a glimpse at the most exciting up-coming technologies with applications to the arable sector

The Knowledge Bank: a chance for a short one-to-one consultation with the specialist of your choice: finance, legal, engineering, take your pick

Drainage & Soil: following on from the success of The Soil Pit, a chance to examine the impact of farm machinery and traffic on a designated plot

Farm Forums: year round focus groups covering key topics facing the industry and also how Cereals can improve and evolve in the future