The first week of July was a happy time but also a sad time. I was privileged and very happy to spend a week with sixteen enthusiastic undergraduates keen to learn about crop protection, but at the same time, sad that the BBSRC funding to run my Crop Protection Summer School has now come to an end. Last year at this time I wrote about how pleased I was with the positive response of the students to working in, what to them, was a totally novel subject area.
Like last year, the Summer School started on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with an introduction from me about why crop protection was important and how Integrated Pest Management is all about ecology, NOT spraying and eradication, something I have been banging on about for many years and which needs to be reiterated again and again, so here I am reiterating it yet again 😊.
Our Sunday evening venue for the last two years, The Lamb Inn, the pub closest to the university, is closed at the moment so we
had to take a couple of taxis (large ones) to an alternative watering hole, The Last Inn. I was relieved to find that it was an excellent choice and we had a magnificent meal which I interrupted periodically to remind the students that they were also supposed to be doing a Pub Quiz 😊
As with last year, the quiz was all picture rounds. The first round was all about charismatic megafauna (almost all answered correctly), then common British wild flowers (about 60% correct), common British trees (50% correct), common British insects (30% correct), I think you can see where I am going with this😊 This year, however, one of the teams cored 100% on the insect round thanks to the presence of an extremely keen entomologist, which meant I couldn’t feign resigned disappointment as much as I have in the past.
Catering for the rest of the week was in our excellent campus refectory and as last year, the students were all very complimentary about the quality of the food and the choices available.
We continued with the successful format of previous years, with specific days allocated to the main crop protection areas, agronomy, entomology, nematology, plant pathology, weed science and spray technology. Each evening after dinner, we had a speaker from ‘industry’; Jen Banfield-Zanin, a former student of mine who works at from Stockbridge Technology Centre, Rob Farrow from Syngenta, Bryony Taylor from CABI, Nicola Spence the Chief Plant Health Officer and Neal Ward from BioBest. They were all very well received and had to answer a lot of interesting questions, both in the classroom and in the Student Union Bar afterwards.
The students and staff involved found it a very rewarding week, and as I did last year, I will let the pictures tell the story.
Let’s go on a nematode hunt! Matt Back briefing his troops
Sweep nets and pooters
Suction sampling with Andy Cherrill
Looking for weeds with John Reade
Labs and classrooms
Glorious weather and fantastic plants
Science communication and chasing fluorescent beetles in the dark
I think they liked the course and we loved their enthusiasm and commitment.
This year we did take the picture when we are all there!
Just to remind you why we need a well-trained youthful cadre of crop protection scientists.
I do hope that we will be able to secure some further funding to enable us to continue with this excellent initiative. Perhaps the AHDB, the British Society of Plant Pathology and the Royal Entomological Society might consider chipping in?
Many thanks to Matt Back, Andy Cherrill, Louisa Dines, Simon Edwards, Martin Hare, Valeria Orlando, John Reade and Fran Sconce who all gave of their time freely to help deliver the course and to those MSc students who came and joined us in the bar. I am especially grateful to our external speakers and their inspirational stories of how they ended up in crop protection.