Researchers at Lancaster University are using X-rays to help farmers increase yields and cut water pollution following an unexpected discovery in a pea and bean crop.
Plant and Soil Scientists hope to combine two new technologies to provide a rapid “same day” measurement of soil phosphorus availability, enabling farmers and growers to make more informed decisions about fertiliser application.
The move to develop this technique came about following an unexpected discovery by Dr Shane Rothwell, as part of his PhD studies at Lancaster University.
Dr Rothwell noticed that, contrary to expectations, pea and bean crop yields were sometimes decreased by up to 30 per cent when they were treated with recommended levels of lime – despite the fact that application of lime is expected to to improve the availability of plant nutrients.
He demonstrated that the reduced crop growth was associated with lower plant phosphorus content but existing ways of measuring the phosphorus in soil available for plant uptake were not picking up on the problem.
Consequently, developing a test to more accurately predict soil phosphorus availability following liming would benefit farmers and the environment, preventing waste and pollution.
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