Cutting for Gold

By Hannah Vallin

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A new face to the team, a new blog and a new post. Having joined the Pwllpeiran upland research team only three weeks ago, it has certainly been a busy introduction to the job.  I found myself tagging along on the day to day tasks, learning the ropes, and providing an extra pair of hands just in time for harvesting all the daffodils upon the research plots.  The endless rows of daffodils are part of the project ‘Innovative system for sustainable daffodil-derived galanthamine production in the uplands’.  After a quick summary of the project it was straight outside to get to work.

During the end of April, believe it or not, the weather here in the Welsh uplands gave us a break of dry sunny calm days.  Shocking I know, but perfect timing for us to harvest the daffodil plots. The considerably mild conditions this year has encouraged the daffodils to thrive. We all know daffodils to be a clear sign of spring, covering fields and road sides with bright yellow and orange colours, while small lambs bound in the fields. The two sights go perfectly together and give everyone hope that the winter months are over and we might, just might, get that lovely hot summer we have all been waiting for.  So you are probably thinking that the rolling Welsh hills are now covered in beautiful yellow flowers. Well, not anymore.  We harvest the daffodils at the ‘goose-neck’ stage when their galanthamine (the yellow gold we are after) content is at its highest concentration.  I’m afraid we don’t really give the daffodils time to bloom into lovely open yellow flowers, or, if they do they are chopped pretty soon after.

Within the space of a week the Pwllpeiran team took to the hills and harvested 6ha. The side kick team comprising of Mariecia, Ben and I went up prior to John and Gareth who had the tractors, trailers, 4X4’s and of course the trusty harvester! We sub-sampled all the plots for our own analysis back here at the research centre using our very own Edward scissors hands, or just fancy hand clippers! It was then the job of our trusty two men to harvest the lot. Keeping in mind that only two lines of daffodils at a time could be chopped and the tractor (New Holland 1920) was rather slow moving, pulling the harvester behind, one week wasn’t bad going. Big thumbs up to Gareth who endured the not so comfy tractor seat all day long for a week, his precise positioning up and down the daffodil plots and of course what would any field experiment be without some kind technical mishap… let’s just say a few machinery issues in the beginning. Luckily enough thanks to a local bearing man in Aberystwyth all our problems were resolved in no time. I also took the opportunity, while the weather was fairly decent, to document our harvesting season.  The GoPro’s boxed up in the office were finally taken out and put to the test. It’s not quite a bird’s eye view, more so a tractor view, of the harvesting. That’s right we stuck the GoPro onto the tractor and the back of the harvester! As it drove off down the steep hillside there was a moment of uncertainty as to whether the sticky attachments would hold or not. Alas, they did, and you can take a peek at the short video I made to show off our site!

So after a busy week of being out in the field in the sunshine, hard life I know, what’s next?

A lot. A lot of sample analysis back in the lab; boxes and bags full of daffodils! While this part may be less thrilling and slightly more time consuming, it does allow us time for working on our acapella voices, singing while we work.  Remaining positive from our successful, and may I say extremely efficient, harvesting we should have a lot of progressive data for analysis.

From the new arrival in the team, coming to the end of my first blog (give me chance, I shall improve!), I shall end on this note. The next new arrivals to Pwllpeiran in the upcoming weeks are not that of a human form…!  Keep an eye out for our updated blog on the exciting projects we have lined up, and who or what they involve!

DCIM105GOPRO

Pwllpeiran

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