As the busy field season has come to a close, we've embraced the task of processing the dried samples and sorting through the big mound of collected field data. This slightly less manic time means that we have time catch our breaths and to look back and see how the season has gone. Firstly, who are “we”? The fieldwork team at the James Hutton Institute this year consists of Clare, Aaron, Trisha, Amanda and myself. We all bring a unique set of skills to the job, from the fresh faced enthusiastic students with their extensive knowledge of all things hip and trendy, to the not so fresh faced amongst us with an extensive knowledge of fieldwork, which makes for a very interesting and often humorous day out in the field. We must also have a big shout out to Dave, who organises the field trials and makes sure they get planted and harvested, and the field staff at the James Hutton Institute who work very long hours planting and maintaining the field trials.
The trials were sown at the beginning of April and it was a cold and wet start to the growing season, with sowing delayed because of the unseasonably late snowfall that brought the country to a standstill. The weather throughout the season continued to be a hot topic of discussion with record breaking temperatures and no rainfall for two months. These conditions proved problematic to both the crops and the fieldwork team. We were forced to irrigate the crops to try and compensate for the lack of rainfall, and the fieldwork team had to restrict our time out in the sun and buy more than one bottle of sun cream...that’s unheard of in Scotland!
But even through the extreme weather conditions the work carried on. The James Hutton Institute had trials running at both plot scale and large ‘farm field’ scale which required two different protocols to be followed throughout the season to monitor the desired plant traits. The measurements ranged from recording plant emergence at the beginning of May, biomass sampling mid-season and mature heads and pods counts at the end of the growing season, with a host of other measurements taking place in between times. We had barley-pea mixtures and wheat-bean mixtures growing along with the monocultures, and a first for us, and perhaps Scotland, lentils! Now that the harvest is complete we can tell that the yield has been affected by the growing conditions this year but until all the data are sorted we can’t say how severely.
So as the fieldwork team finish off processing the samples and move on to other things, and the Scottish weather returns to its usual unpredictable (but usually cold and wet) status, I am left to stare at my computer screen and enjoy a nice cup of tea. My job throughout the winter months is to sort out the data, preparing it for analysis while willing the 2019 field season to come quickly. Look out for the results coming soon!