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NEWS: Crop science students set to be a future industry ASSET

21 January 2013

2012 Asset Award winners

Caption: AICC chief executive Sarah Cowlrick present Harper Adams’ Scott Hayles and Reading’s Tom Blanchard with their ASSET awards at the AICC Conference on 16th January 2013, supported by NIAB TAG’s Bill Clark and Ben Freer (from left to right: Bill Clark, Sarah Cowlrick, Scott Hayles, Tom Blanchard and Ben Freer). Newcastle’s Greg Colebrook and Nottingham’s Stephanie Abbott are also ASSET winners.



Four crop science students have each been awarded a £3,000 bursary by NIAB TAG for outstanding achievement in their studies.

Greg Colebrook, Scott Hayles, Tom Blanchard and Stephanie Abbott are winners of this year’s ASSET (Agricultural Science Student Education Training) prize, a joint initiative between NIAB TAG and four leading crop science universities; Reading, Harper Adams, Newcastle and Nottingham.

The programme began in 2008 and NIAB TAG has to date awarded £60,000 in student bursaries, in association with the NIAB Trust and The Morley Agricultural Foundation.

ASSET is available to second year students enrolled in specific crop-based modules at the four universities. The winners, one from each university, are chosen on the quality of specific second year project work, a recommendation from their tutors and an interview with NIAB TAG staff.

NIAB TAG’s Juno McKee says: “ASSET’s aim is to support and encourage the best undergraduates into careers that will support applied research and knowledge transfer for the future benefit of the arable sector. The programme encourages students to take ‘crop’ modules and directs them towards crop orientated dissertations. We support students in their studies by providing valuable agronomic information and leads, tailored to the curriculum of each university, as well as important networking links with the applied research and agronomy industry through NIAB TAG.

“Greg, Scott, Tom and Stephanie have been rewarded for showing outstanding initiative, knowledge and ambition throughout their studies, combined with a comprehensive understanding of the issues faced by the crop production sector. We’re looking forward to watching how the careers of our winners progress in the future,” says Dr McKee.

Sarah Cowlrick, CEO of the AICC (Association of Independent Crop Consultants) was delighted to stage the presentation of this important award at the AICC’s three-day National Technical Conference.  The conference was the largest ever in terms of member and contributor attendance and included 30 new entrants.

2012/13 Award Winners

Greg Colebrook – Newcastle University

Greg is now in his third year studying BSc Agriculture with Honours in Farm Business Management at Newcastle University with a particular interest on the arable sector. He grew up on a farm in north Lincolnshire and has experience on dairy, beef and arable farms across the UK, most recently working for McGregor Farms in the Scottish Borders over summer 2012. Gavin has also spent 12 months travelling and working in New Zealand.

Scott Hayles – Harper Adams University

Scott is at Harper Adams University studying BSc Agriculture and Crop Management. Last year he won a scholarship with Syngenta, which includes a year’s placement with the company based at Cambridge, and he hopes for a career in agronomy and crop consultancy. Scott has also spent last two summers working in Botswana learning about African bush management and conservation, and on the rare occasions he is at home on the Isle of Wight he spends time managing his own 3.5 ha of woodland.

Tom Blanchard – University of Reading

Tom’s interest in arable crops began early with helping to choose varieties for his family’s 120 ha arable Lincolnshire farm. He is now studying Agriculture at the University of Reading and is looking at either returning to the family farming business or pursuing a career in agronomy and farm management. His particular interest is in crop improvement including the use of cover crops for weed control and increasing soil organic matter. His ASSET project covered predicting disease pressures and adjusting protectant fungicide regimes to give the most economical result.

Stephanie Abbott – University of Nottingham

Stephanie is an environmental biologist at the University of Nottingham. In summer 2012 she completed a three month internship with Shell in Canada on a new carbon capture and storage project which included the conservation and rehabilitation of areas containing rare plant species. 

Stephanie is currently researching whether zero tillage farming can mitigate the effects of climate change, focusing on the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide and their fluxes from zero tilled soils. Involvement in the ASSET programme has allowed motivated Stephanie towards a career based in sustainable agriculture.