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Agricultural campus hosts specialist conference

Coleg Sir Gâr’s Gelli Aur agricultural campus, in partnership with Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, hosted an agriculture conference which invited colleges, universities and schools to learn more about the industry.

Gelli Aur and its team of staff opened its doors to students from Aberystwyth University, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Pen y Bont to a range of workshops in grass nutrient management, bovine disease, slurry management and seed mix selection.

The event, funded by Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, was opened by Melanie Owen, a presenter from S4C’s Ffermio programme who welcomed visitors and encouraged them on their agricultural journey.

Nigel Howells Consultancy delivered a talk on foliar feeding, which is a method of feeding plants or grass directly through the leaves, utilising nitrogen levels. He explained that using humic acid, which is a group of molecules that bind and help plant roots receive water and nutrients, helped reduce nutrient loss, assists in nitrogen fixation and improves drought tolerance.

He presented the data and findings of a three-year project which also discovered that through foliar feeding, the levels of sugar increased in the yield and soil health improved, increasing fertility and reduced mastitis.

John Owen from Coleg Sir Gâr talked about the projects underway under the college’s Agricultural Resource Centre (ARC), which helps to provide commercial benefits and innovative solutions for farmers.

He explained the Tywydd Tywi weather app developed for farmers to instantly measure weather conditions, nutrient loss, soil temperature and soil moisture over a concentrated area of the valley and how this has sparked an interest in developing a similar tool in Scotland and Cumbria.

John also explained the developments of Prosiectslyri Project, an innovative method developed in partnership which extracts nutrients from slurry for use as fertiliser.  This helps to reduce farm storage and water run-off, creates a circular economy and protects the environment. He also explained how bacteriology is critical to soil health and how chemical oxygen demand (COD) detrimentally affects water systems.

Cennydd Jones, a lecturer in agricultural grassland management at Aberystwyth University, talked to students about seed mixtures and what to look for during selection, such as nitrogen fixation and disease resistance varieties.

He also talked about dealing with mismanaged and overgrazed land and how choosing seeds that complement each other such as perennial ryegrass and white clover is beneficial, as well as those with interacting root systems.

John Griffiths at Coleg Sir Gâr manages the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) project and gave a comprehensive insight into its affects on cattle and cattle farms.

Offering data on the statistics in Wales, he explained that out of the 11,000 cattle herds in Wales, 85% of farms agreed to an additional and free BVD test at the same time of the annual TB roll-out.

Students learned how the airborne disease is spread and how from an unvaccinated cow, its unborn calf develops a genetic coding for BVD which results in the mother becoming immune after generating antibodies but the calf becomes persistently infected and as well as spreading the virus, is consistently experiencing ill health due to the virus affecting the immune system. 

Iwan Thomas, lecturer in agriculture at Coleg Sir Gâr, who works closely with Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to deliver training in the medium of Welsh, said: “This is the first time the two organisations have delivered such a conference and I’m pleased to say it went really well and I hope that the students benefited from the expertise that was shared with them.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved for their support and hopefully we can run a similar event in the future.”

The BVD and ARC projects are delivered with the support of Welsh Government funding.

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