TyT Field Dispatches: ‘Losing the Plot’ | participatory data collection

Chris Maughan News

What’s that cheesy phrase…? ‘You’ve got to lose yourself to find yourself’? …heard of it? Good quote-of-the-day fodder perhaps, but not conventionally associated with modern agronomy. But then we are doing things differently with this project.

Also we definitely haven’t lost our test plot… at least not entirely.

This post is a part of a series related to a Citizen Science called ‘TyT Field Dispatches’. The project is taking place in collaboration with CSA ‘Peasant Bakery’, Torth-y-Tir (TyT) as an investigation into knowledge co-production on CSAs through participatory field trials. For more information see the project website. For the previous entry (which details the set up of the field trials) see here.

March 17th, 2019 – data collection day #1

The TyT:CitAg crew (as literally only I refer to it) spent a glorious Paddy’s day getting reacquainted with our experimental plot, the TyT fields more generally, and the meaning of life. Over coffee, the crew got all caught up, looked over the plan for the day, and then took a quick jog up to the fields to check the state of play (i.e. establishment rate of the crop, the ‘weed burden’, and random cow damage…). Here’s a pic of Rupe pointing out the ’tillers’ (lateral branches which indicate the amount of ears of wheat the plant is likely to have) on one of the young wheat plants:

We ended our tour by arriving on the field with our test plot (colloquially known as ‘the meadow’ or field ‘2712’ in more formal settings), and began trying to locate our test plot. The field had at some point been infiltrated by cows – a couple of which had evidently stumbled across our plot(!), dislodging some of the stakes. So if this all goes wrong, I blame the cows. Using a telegraph pole as a reference point we soon got a bearing, and started to ‘reconstruct’ our plot – not a trivial undertaking in sudden high winds. Indeed, I was so caught up in the drama that I forgot to take a photo – but here’s one of us setting up the plot back in November (if you look closely you might even see Pythagorus himself cheering us on from his ancient grave):

After that, it was all plain sailing – in quick succession we took three soil core samples from each plot, did a ‘subjective scoring‘ of each plot for plant health, weed coverage, crop coverage and tillering (the method here being that everyone scores each plot out of 5 against each criteria giving us an average ‘score’ for each plot), and finally, a plant count for each plot (here we used meter stick dropped randomly on the plot to give us our sample square meter) – this was repeated, and multiple counts were made each time to try to access what is loving referred to as ‘the wisdom of crowds’ – which is good: we are a particularly wise and intelligent crowd. I mean, just look at us eating TyT bread and home made/processed hummus in the back of Rupe’s van – positively utopian!:

I was so excited that I sped home and dutifully uploaded all the data into our extremely impressive ‘field data spreadsheet’ – adding to the spade test data we generated last time. Email me if you’d like to have a look at this.

So, we lost ourselves, we’ve found ourselves …but what next? Well, the next step in the master plan is to build in some tests for biodiversity on the plot. A working group has already formed around this so we’ll be waiting with bated breath to hear back from them once a plan has formed.

Watch this space!