Fera Celebrates One Year of Enigma


Fera Celebrates One Year of Enigma

Fera Celebrates One Year of Enigma

Fera is proud to be celebrating the one-year anniversary of Enigma, the collaborative research model, which has achieved great success in advancing sustainable agriculture practices. This innovative approach has brought together industry partners and Fera experts to tackle the pressing issues facing the agri-food sector.


The Enigma model was launched in April 2022 with Enigma I: Sustainable Wireworm IPM and was developed in collaboration with industry partners to respond to the irrevocable damage caused by wireworm to root crops such as potatoes and carrots as well as the stems of some crop plants, including cereals, field beans, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, maize, and sugar beet.


Wireworm damage is currently a barrier to implementing regenerative agriculture practices and is reported to cause annual yield losses of up to 10%. Wireworm populations in minimum tillage systems are as high as wireworm populations on land previously under grass. To fully understand the changing dynamics of wireworm damage and to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce and avoid wireworm damage, we must understand why and how damage patterns are changing. We need to monitor wireworm populations, understand how these translate into crop damage and design new strategies to minimise the commercial risk.


Enigma I has proven to be a resounding success, revolutionising the way we approach research in the agri-food sector, and it is a unique approach to research and development that brings together experts from academia, industry, and government to collaborate on innovative solutions for the agri-food sector. Representatives from Syngenta, Frontier, G’s Fresh, Elveden Estate, Pearce Seeds, Inov3PT and Blackthorn Arable, representing a range of crops and stages in the supply chain, are collaborating on Enigma I to understand wireworm and its changing patterns of damage in greater detail.


Over the past year, Enigma I has yielded impressive results. The Fera team and project partners have collected and identified 1,124 click beetles of several different species from multiple locations across the UK and France. Fera has ranked these for further study based on their abundance and potential to damage crops. The collection of adult beetles is being used to develop DNA barcoding which will allow us to identify wireworms to species. This is currently almost impossible, particularly for small larvae. Fera has also completed a literature review to identify gaps in knowledge of environmental parameters affecting the lifecycles of the wireworm species of greatest concern in the UK. We will generate data to fill some of these gaps and this will allow better targeting of Integrated Pest Management in the future.


By working in tandem with our partners, information gained from the surveying and monitoring will allow us to update our sampling strategies for the crops of concern and to understand the relationship between the wireworm populations of the species present and crop damage. We will also gain an understanding of the responses of different species of wireworms to cover cropping and min-till agriculture. The results of the work described above, together with an understanding of the life histories of the different wireworm species, will allow us to develop guidelines to minimise wireworm damage across a range of crops.


Throughout this research, the Enigma model has fostered continued innovation and knowledge transfer across the agri-food sector. The online Enigma Hub, launched as part of the model, has provided a platform for ongoing communications with partners.


Reflecting on the Enigma model's success, Fera Growth Director Wendy Martindale said, "The Enigma model has enabled us to work more closely than ever with our industry partners, and the results speak for themselves. We are proud to be leading the way in collaborative research and innovation, and we look forward to continuing this important work in the years to come."


The success of Enigma I has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of Fera and its industry partners, who have provided valuable support and expertise throughout the development process. This partnership has enabled the Enigma team to work closely with growers to identify their needs and develop tailored solutions that meet their specific requirements.


In addition to the development of Enigma I, the Enigma model is also expected to successfully foster innovation and knowledge transfer across the agri-food sector. By bringing together experts from different fields, Enigma will facilitate the sharing of ideas and best practices, leading to the development of new and innovative solutions to the challenges facing the sector.


Looking ahead, Fera is committed to continuing its work with industry partners to drive further innovation and knowledge transfer across the agri-food sector. Through the Enigma model, Fera aims to build on the success of the past year and deliver further sustainable solutions that meet the needs of growers and the wider industry through future Enigma projects.


"We are excited for the future of Enigma projects and the impact they will have on sustainable food production. By building on the success of Enigma I and continuing to collaborate with industry partners, we can further address the challenges facing our global food system and contribute to a more sustainable future for all." Explains Wendy Martindale.


The one-year anniversary of the Enigma is a significant milestone for Fera and its partners, and one that highlights the importance of collaboration and a joined-up approach in tackling the challenges facing the agri-food sector. With continued support and investment, Enigma has the potential to drive further advances in sustainable agriculture practices and deliver real benefits for growers and the wider industry.


For more information on Enigma, including getting involved with Enigma I, or future Enigma projects, click here.


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