Crop and livestock students impress industry judges

Friday, 21 December 2018

About 80 postgraduates convened in Solihull last month for the third AHDB PhD studentship conference.

The four-day event (26–29 November 2018) saw AHDB-funded PhD students showcase their work and gain insight into the wider industry and the career opportunities it offers.

Split into two back-to-back two-day conferences, the first focused on crops and the second on livestock; first-year students had the chance to introduce their work, whereas final year students gave in-depth presentations. The students in the middle of their studies prepared poster-based presentations.

Two high-profile industry panels, one for crops and one for livestock, were asked to decide which students delivered the best final year presentations or posters.

The 2018 judging panel for crops comprised:

Martin Emmett, Binsted Nursery and chair of the AHDB Hardy Nursery Stock Panel
Graham Jellis, chair of the AgriFood Charities Partnership
Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, chair of the AHDB Horticulture Board

The 2018 judging panel for livestock comprised:

Debbie McConnell, Dairy Research Project Leader, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute
Mark Young, Head of Innovation, Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock
Jim Davies, Head of Marcomms, AHDB

The best final year crop presentation was awarded to Aaron Hoyle, who studies at SRUC. His work looked at how barley grain traits (physical and chemical) and growing conditions influence specific weight – an important quality criterion for processors. The best final year livestock presentation was awarded to Louise Whatford, who studies at the University of Warwick. Louise looked at hygiene protocols and how they can be best implemented over lambing to reduce the occurrence of mastitis. The thought-provoking presentations were judged to have provided an excellent summary of highly technical topics. Their work was also deemed likely to lead to improvements in production.

The best crop poster presentation was awarded to Jessica Hughes, who studies at the John Innes Centre. Jessica looks at the genetics of oilseed rape and how it influences the feeding behaviour of cabbage stem flea beetle. The best livestock poster was awarded to Bethan John, who studies at the University of Liverpool. Bethan investigates the liver fluke parasite, which can seriously reduce the health and performance of cattle and sheep. Specifically, the studentship looks at the parasite’s survival and viability following grass ensiling. The posters were judged to be clear, concise and accurate.

Amanda Bennett, who helps manage AHDB’s PhD studentship programme, said: “This conference provides an excellent forum for our students to discuss their research and gain a wider understanding of agriculture and horticulture.

“It also helps make them feel a valued part of the horticultural and agricultural science community and we believe this will encourage them to stay within the industry after their studies have concluded.”

AHDB invests about £1 million a year in doctoral research at UK universities, colleges and research institutes as part of its work to develop agricultural and horticultural scientific expertise.

Further information on AHDB PhD studentships can be accessed via:

Award winners

SRUC’s Aaron Hoyle was awarded the best final year crop presentation by AHDB Horticulture Board chair Hayley Campbell-Gibbons. Download this image.

The best final year livestock presentation was awarded to Louise Whatford, who studies at the University of Warwick, by AHDB’s Head of Marcomms Jim Davies. Download this image.

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons (right), chair of the AHDB Horticulture Board, presents the best final year crop poster presentation award to Jessica Hughes (left), John Innes Centre. Download this image

Bethan John, who studies at the University of Liverpool, was given an award by AHDB’s Lead Veterinary Science Expert, Derek Armstrong, for her livestock poster presentation. Download this image.

Delegates at the 2018 AHDB PhD studentship conference – livestock (top) and crops (bottom).