Agritech trial project takes shape

04/01/2016

Earlier this year, we received a prestigious Innovate UK / BBSRC Agritech research grant for our project to find an improved pollination bag material for glasshouse breeding, focusing initially on the needs of sugar beet, wheat and Miscanthus.  The project is made possible through a collaboration with four other organisations, including the National Institute of Agricultural Botany and Aberystwyth University’s IBERS team.

The challenge is tough, because we need to allow more light into the bag (usually by opening the fibres up) but keep out very tiny pollen grains (usually by packing the fibres more densely).  We also hope the products resulting from this project will also produce an internal environment that is more consistent with the ambient conditions than is typical for pollination bags in the glasshouse environment.

This month the trial lab production facility was in full swing producing the material for the first trial, due to happen early in 2016.  We’re testing three new materials, with a range of polymers and even includes a natural fibre component.  Initial tests were conducted to establish which fibre compositions and material architecture would be best, and were benchmarked as improvements against the properties of products used currently.

Based on initial lab tests of porometry, spectrophotometry and air permeability all the materials looking promising, so now trial volumes are produced we’re looking forward to trialling them in the greenhouses, with the project concluding at the end of next year.

Examining the fibres

Examining the fibres

Initial tissue-thin layer of fibres as the fabric begins to take shape

Initial tissue-thin layer of fibres as the fabric begins to take shape

Needle punching lightly tacks the web together, before further processing

Needle punching lightly tacks the web together, before further processing

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