Crops Research Unit

Crops Research UnitThe University of Reading's Crops Research Unit (CRU) undertakes plot to field scale research on all aspects of arable, soft fruit and forage crop production. CRU is located at Sonning Farm, approximately 4 km north-east of the Whiteknights campus, and occupies approximately 12 ha of the University's most uniform soil. The CRU is equipped to prepare, drill, maintain, monitor and harvest arable crops at plot to field scale, with over 2,000 trial plots drilled annually. It has adopted and developed remote/automated phenotyping systems to allow measurement of establishment, light interception, leaf area, height etc. on thousands of plots. Post-harvest, the CRU contains the facilities to evaluate harvested crops and assess grain quality. In the field, the CRU supports several long term field facilities, including a low-input rotation, mimicking organic production systems, which has been in production since 2003 and facilitates side-by-side comparisons with conventional production systems, and a series of replicated tillage plots consisting of zero, min and conventional tillage practices. The CRU has recently benefitted from the addition of three new double span polytunnels for soft fruit production, including commercial grade table-top strawberry production facilities and new laboratory and workshop facilities to support the research activities on site.

Research at CRU includes investigating the interaction of the crop with the environment, and facilities include rain-out shelters for inducing drought treatments and covers for inducing heat stress in the field. The impact of farming on biodiversity is also investigated and we currently host field trials investigating the impact of crop rotations on above and below ground biodiversity as part of the EU funded Liberation project and research on interactions between pollinators, crops and the wider environment. The impact of pests and diseases also feature in many of the research trials undertaken at CRU, as do alternative farming strategies, such as intercropping. Finally, research using different crop varieties and genotypes is being used to inform future breeding strategies to develop crops suitable for our future cropping systems and climate.

The Director of CRU is Dr John Hammond to whom general enquiries should be directed.

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