7 October 2020

Feeding the future: Can we protect crops sustainably?

Organised by SCI's Agrisciences group IAFRI and CHAP

Online webinar - 14:00-16:30 (BST)

Registration Closed

This event is no longer available for registration.


The world continues to need high levels of crop production. These crops need to be protected, in a sustainable way, from the various threats to high yields. The threats are both biological (insects, diseases and weeds) and non-biological (climate and soil). Demands and threats are higher than ever before in human history, as is our understanding of the negative impacts of chemical pest control (for example on biodiversity, water quality and resistance). In this context, the controls on chemical pesticides have steadily increased and many active substances that were commonplace a decade ago are no longer available. 

The coming years are likely to see further reductions in the range of substances used. Against this background, the future of crop protection will need to look to a combination of established and innovative technologies. This conference will detail our best estimates of the pressures on crop production in the future and lay out the state of the art in a range of the available technologies: Data-driven farming; Chemistry; Biology and Genetics.  The integration of the available techniques into a coherent crop management system will require a great deal from the farmers and growers.

The conference will consist of 2 parts.  On the Monday and Wednesday, we will consider the constraints and solutions regarding the adoption of integrated systems for crop protection.  Our projections of the future will be laid out by the leaders in their respective fields, illustrated with vivid recent case studies and with extended time for questions and discussion.
On the Tuesday, we will offer opportunities to learn and discover more about the crop protection industry.  There will be commercial demonstrations of new technologies, live virtual tours of research facilities, opportunities to learn new skills and have discussions with the scientific leaders of today.



This conference is geared to all those working in the area of crop protection: farmers and growers; innovation start-up companies; established large corporations; academic researchers; and regulators.  It will be especially appropriate for those working in:

•  areas of drones / AI / robotics / machine vision on farms; 
•  chemistry of crop protection, whether generic or new active substances; 
•  biology of crop protection, such as biostimulants or biopesticides; 
•  genetics of crop protection, breeding, gene editing and beneficial traits; 
•  promotion of good agricultural practice and agronomy; 
•  financing of new solutions, such as banks and venture capitalists; 
•  growing or farming for whom the issues of crop protection are real and present. 



Alison Bentley

As a crop scientist working at the interface of academia and industry my research is focussed on the translation of fundamental scientific breakthroughs into tangible impacts for the agri-food sector. I am currently the Director of Genetics and Breeding at NIAB leading a team of scientists to deliver tools and technologies to improve plant breeding in the UK and internationally. My research is challenge-led and addresses two major questions facing crop production: how can we adapt crops to fluctuating and changing climates to ensure food security, and how can we produce crops with reliable yield and product quality whilst limiting their environmental and economic cost. Addressing these two applied research questions requires a breadth and scale of scientific research and reflecting this, my current work spans the targeting of specific genes regulating plant processes to the development of an environmental “dashboard” for quantifying nitrogen fertiliser impacts at village scales. In November 2020 I will move to CIMMYT to lead the Global Wheat Program.

Andrew Fearne

University of East Anglia

Andrew Fearne is professor of value chain management at Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia. His research is focussed on the co-ordination of value chains, from field to fork. He is the founding editor of the International Journal of Supply Chain Management, author of over 100 articles, the 14th Adelaide Thinker in Residence and son of a Kentish pig farmer!

Angela de Manzanos Guinot


Angela co-founded FungiAlert in 2015 whilst completing her PhD studies at Imperial College London. She has been FungiAlert's Chief Technology Officer (CTO) since 2016. As FungiAlert’s CTO Angela oversees the technology development and roadmap, company’s operations and scouts for strategic partnerships and opportunities for collaborative projects. Before becoming FungiAlert’s CTO, Angela completed a PhD in Chemical Biology of Crop Protection and Sustainability at Imperial College London in 2016, which followed an MRes in Chemical Biology of Crop Sustainability and Protection at Imperial College London. Previously she obtained a BSc and MSc in Biotechnology at the School of Agricultural Engineering in the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.
FungiAlert is passionate about increasing agricultural productivity and sustainability. Their patented unique SporSenZ technology provides key data about the soils' microbial community, allowing to understand the microbial dynamics associated with different farming practices and to identify new microbial candidates for agricultural products. Ultimately, their vision is to help reduce crop loss and increase productivity, by discovering microbes that are game-changing for agriculture.

Brande Wulff

John Innes Centre

Brande’s research programme explores the genetics of disease resistance in wheat.
This research has led to developing fast, new and efficient methods for gene discovery and cloning which use mutant and natural populations followed by sequence alignment to locate genes, a technique which could be applied to a range of crop plants.
Brande has also developed a method for reducing the wheat generation time to eight weeks, in a controlled environment, dramatically speeding up capabilities for research and breeding purposes.

Brande is also interested in how microbial effector proteins, their host targets, and plant immune receptors co-evolve.
His work seeks to translate knowledge of this interaction into practical solutions for genetic disease control in agricultural systems.
His focus is on bread wheat and major diseases of wheat – including stem rust, wheat blast and Septoria tritici blotch.
Brande’s long-term goal is to provide resistance gene–based solutions to prevalent disease threats of wheat in the UK and worldwide.

Dave Hughes


I am a synthetic organic chemist by training. After finishing a post-doctoral position in the USA I returned to the UK to join the agrochemical industry as a chemistry team leader, designing and synthesizing new potential pesticides. After ten years I moved to head a biochemistry and genetics group investigating the mode of action of pesticides. Five years later I moved to a role in external collaborations, and I am now responsible for technology identification and evaluation for Syngenta’s crop protection business: responsible for initiating and developing strategic relationships with universities and other companies around the globe in order to collaborate and co-develop new technologies for use in agriculture

Dr Belinda Luke


Dr. Belinda Luke (CABI UK) is the Principal Scientist and Head of the Biopesticides Team at CABI and runs the Fungal Biopesticide Development Lab as part of the CHAP consortium. She has twenty-four years extensive experience in working with fungi, including on laboratory scale mass production, storage, formulation and quality control aspects, of mainly Metarhizium and Beauveria species. She has worked on the development of a commercial product, Green Muscle that is registered for locust and grasshopper control in Africa. Belinda has also work on a Beauveria product to control UK storage pests and her new project is the control of cabbage stem flea beetles in oil seed rape crops in the UK.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd

Fera NED and former DEFRA chief scientist

Professor Sir Ian Boyd is currently a professor at the University of St Andrews and Chair of the UK Research Integrity Office. He was Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government on Food and the Environment (2012-2019). He is a marine and polar scientist and previously served as the first Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at St Andrews. He is and a director of a number of trusts and companies.

Kathryn Knight


Kathryn Knight, Research and Technology Manager – Crop Care, EMEA.
Kathryn Knight received her Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry in 2006 from St. Andrews University, Scotland. Continuing in research, took a position as a post-doctoral research assistant in the department of Chemistry at Durham University where her research interests were in the area of delineating the biological mechanisms involved in safening, herbicide resistance in black grass and C-glucoside transferases. Kathryn has published several research papers and journal articles in all these areas, including metabolic profiling of xenobiotics in plant safening responses.
In 2010 Kathryn joined Croda and has been dedicated to supporting their crop protection business for over ten years. Kathryn is currently Research and Technology Manager for Croda’s European Crop Protection business. Her responsibilities include new product development for the global crop protection market, claim substantiation, adjuvant and formulation research as well as managing an external partnering innovation portfolio.

Keith Norman

former Technical Director of Velcourt Farms

Keith graduated from Newcastle University and since then has followed a career in farm management and crop production technology for nearly 40 years.
For thirty years, Keith was Velcourt’s Technical Director, supporting the Velcourt team of 45 farm managers in crop production technology and managing Velcourt’s in-house research and development activity. He has also worked on various overseas farming activities in Spain, France, Germany, Zambia, Russia, the Ukraine and Australia
Keith has led and participated in many publicly funded collaborative research projects, and has worked with all the major agrochemical manufacturers, providing independent evaluation of new and existing technologies.
Since October 2018, Keith formed his own freelance, independent consultancy company, specialising in all things relating to Agritech and Crop Production. Clients range from Startups to Academia, Distribution, Government and Research Institutes.
Keith is a trustee of the John Innes Foundation, a Director of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), has just finished serving a 6 year position as a member of the John Innes Centre Governing Council, a member of the AHDB Recommended List Wheat committee and has served on the AHDB Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee for six years.
Keith was awarded the Farm Advisor of the Year in the Farmers Weekly Awards in 2013.

Richard Bramley

Yorkshire Agricultural Society

Richard is an arable farmer at Manor Farm, Kelfield situated to the south of York in the county of Yorkshire in England

The farm grows a wide variety of crops, including milling wheat, malting barley (winter and spring), oilseed rape, sugar beet, potatoes, peas, beans and oats. Situated alongside the River Ouse, the farm sees an ever increasing amount of flooding in recent years. Soils are typical for the region mainly grade 1 alluvial silty clays and grade 2 sandy loams, with some clay loams.

A key component of the farming enterprise is ‘integrated crop management’ and environmental management, with 7% of the farmed area under managed habitat and further 25% of various cover crops in the ground from August through to March. Since 2005, this combined with other voluntary measures, like hedgerow and tree planting, has seen a marked increase in the bio-diversity of the farm, without impacting on the quality and productive output. The focus on improving soil health is an important aspect of current work on the farm.

Richard is active in the wider industry holding a number of posts. He is vice-chair of the North East Regional Crops Board and the North East representative on the NFU National Environment Forum, as well as a Branch Chairman. He is consultee on the Farmer Science Network, a Yorkshire Agricultural Society initiative. He also hosts talks and farm visits for interested parties and university students.

Richard has a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Nottingham (BSc Hons), is a qualified agronomist (MBPR) and a member of the Society of the Environment and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv).

Richard Maycock

Advisor and Consultant in Agriscience and Environmental Affairs, formerly Corteva Agriscience

Richard spent his early years as a Government Scientist holding various laboratory and field positions in Environmental and Human Health Assessment. He then spent over 30 years working for Corteva Agriscience and its predecessor companies in the UK and overseas.
Whilst there Richard held numerous positions in Environmental Chemistry, Ecotoxicology, Product Stewardship, Regulatory & Government Affairs for crop protection chemicals and seeds. He led international teams both globally and regionally (EMEA, Latin America and Pacific). More latterly Richard represented R&D as Transformation Leader supporting company merger and de-merger activities.
Richard has had significant involvement with various governments internationally including the development of new legislation and regulations; most notably the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), EU Regulation (EC 1107/2009) for Plant Protection Product approvals and the new Crop Protection law for China. He was an active contributor at the OECD, including opportunities for international joint regulatory reviews. Richard also provided leadership for the European Crop Protection Association, including Industry Steering Team Leader for FOCUS and MEDRICE environmental exposure modelling.
Richard recently retired from the industry and is now engaged with mentoring African and Asian future leaders as well as using his knowledge and experience to support start-up companies.

Neil Boonham

Newcastle University

Neil Boonham is a crop scientist at Newcastle University with 25 years experience in working in plant pathology, diagnostics and plant health. I am interested in how diagnostic data can be used to enhance decision making on farms, especially with regards to timing of application and selection of the most appropriate crop protection products. A key component of the approach is working with engineering partners (e.g. Optisense Ltd.) to develop automated systems for data generation to reduce the costs of implementing new techniques. In addition, we have been developing in-field tests for identifying mutations conferring resistance to fungicides and implementing modelling approaches to understanding how pathogen populations respond to spray programmes. Along with colleagues at Newcastle we are interested in integrating data from different platforms (e.g. imagery and spectral analysis at different spatial scales, genomic, metabolomic and proteomic data) to create a data rich farming platform that will provide information to inform decision making on farms.


Monday 5 October


Selected factors impacting Crop Protection currently and in the future
Richard Maycock, Advisor and Consultant in Agriscience and Environmental Affairs, formerly Corteva Agriscience

Future trends in the social, political and regulatory situation of crop protection
Ian Boyd, Fera NED and former DEFRA chief scientist
How the latest tech will transform crop protection
Neil Boonham, crop scientist at Newcastle University
Precision agriculture - a new way forward?
Keith Norman, former Technical Director of Velcourt Farms

What accelerated plant breeding has to offer
Alison Bentley, crop scientist at NIAB
Sustainable control of disease resistance - the case for GM wheat
Brande Wulff, John Innes Centre 


Tuesday 6 October

We will be hosting a range of fun and interactive events and exhibits throughout the afternoon to appeal to students and early-career scientists and engineers in all aspects of crop protection.
Join us for a series of fun & interactive events for students, early-career scientists & engineers in all aspects of crop protection:

Opportunities to interview key people in the industry
Training events on technical skills
Technology demonstrations
Tours of UK research facilities

Wednesday 7 October


The future of chemistry in crop protection
Dave Hughes, Global Head of Technology Scouting, Syngenta

How formulation will change the chemistry of crop protection
Kathryn Knight, Research and Technology Manager, Croda
How can soil microbes increase agricultural yields
Angela de Manzanos, Chief Technology Officer, FungiAlert

Developing mycoinsecticides for UK agriculture
Belinda Luke, Principal Scientist, Biopesticides Team, CABI


The interface of social science and agriculture
Andrew Fearne, Professor of Value Chain Management, University of East Anglia


Integrated Crop Management in practice on a Yorkshire Arable farm
Richard Bramley, Farmer Scientist Network, Yorkshire Agricultural Society


Booking Process/Deadlines

Booking terms and conditions


Organising Committee
  • James Garratt, SCI/ Enviresearch
  • Bruce Knight, SCI/ Innovation Management
  • Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, SCI/ University of Cambridge
  • John Points, SCI/ Consultant Analytical Scientist
  • Liliya Serazetdinova, SCI/ Earlham Institute
  • Katherine Wotherspoon, IAFRI/ Fera
  • Neil Boonham,IAFRI/ Newcastle University
  • Claire Boston-Smithson, IAFRI/ Fera
  • Darren Hassall, CHAP

Conference Team
Tel +44 (0)20 7598 1561
Email: conferences@soci.org