Robocrop: Growing barley with robots and drones

  • 4 May 2017
  • From the section England
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Media captionRobocrop: The tractor sowing crops with no one at the wheel

A team at Harper Adams University are trying to grow and then harvest a field of barley using only robots and drones. If they succeed it will be a world first and we're following their progress.

Last time we watched as the team from Harper Adams started to prepare for this year long experiment.

They were using a small robot, not much bigger than a toy car, to refine the steering system they wanted to use.

But at that point they were still waiting on their tractor to be delivered and couldn't find a suitable combine harvester.

Since then things have moved on pretty quickly with triumphs and also some sleepless nights.

Huge achievement

Read full article Robocrop: Growing barley with robots and drones

Illegal elvers worth more than caviar on black market

  • 12 April 2017
  • From the section England
Smuggled elvers Image copyright UK Border Agency
Image caption This consignment of elvers, hidden under fish, was stopped at Heathrow. It would have earned £1.3m in Hong Kong

This is peak elver fishing season on the River Severn but there are worries about illegal poaching and smuggling of these baby eels to the Far East.

So I spent a night out on the banks of the river to see how the problem is being tackled.

Read full article Illegal elvers worth more than caviar on black market

Simulated beaver attacks trick aspens to produce seeds

  • 25 March 2017
  • From the section England
Aspen flowers form as catkins
Image caption Aspen flowers form as catkins. These are on a female tree and the seeds are growing on the outside of the catkin

Aspens are one of our most beautiful native trees and there's a huge demand for seeds to grow new ones for planting.

Trouble is, the aspen tree itself doesn't like to produce seeds which makes life very difficult for everyone.

Read full article Simulated beaver attacks trick aspens to produce seeds

Bird flu doesn't care about borders even if we do

  • 27 February 2017
  • From the section England
Bridge over the Severn in Melverly
Image caption Bridge over the Severn in Melverly. English chickens on this side must stay inside. One the other bank on the Welsh side they can be let out

New rules to tackle bird flu are coming into force this week. But radically different approaches on either side of the English Welsh border are causing confusion.

In England there is currently a blanket ban on letting all domestic birds outside.

Read full article Bird flu doesn't care about borders even if we do

Will Birmingham tax diesel cars to cut down pollution?

  • 2 February 2017
  • From the section England
Diesel exhaust Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Working out how many die from air pollution is not easy

Birmingham has an air pollution problem and people are blaming diesel engines. The council say it's diesel powered vehicles that cause the city to regularly break air pollution limits and it's all having a huge effect on the health of the people who live there.

Assessing those health problems is fairly complex however.

Read full article Will Birmingham tax diesel cars to cut down pollution?

Top tips for making the most of big garden birdwatch

  • 27 January 2017
  • From the section England
Blue tit
Image caption Blue tits are the second most common birds in the West Midlands, according to an RSPB survey

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch has established itself as one of our most successful citizen science experiments.

A great way to learn more about nature and enjoy the birds in your garden while providing plenty of information on how our wildlife is doing.

Read full article Top tips for making the most of big garden birdwatch

Stay still or search? Finding a lost friend in a crowd

Nathan Cunningham
Image caption Nathan Cunningham started work on the problem after attending music festivals with his friends

This is the season to lose friends in a crowd.

Be it the Boxing Day sales or a new year's party then the chances are you'll turn your back for a second and people just wander off.

Read full article Stay still or search? Finding a lost friend in a crowd

A jolt for the electric car industry in the Midlands

The new electric Jaguar Image copyright Jaguar
Image caption Who will produce the batteries for the new electric Jaguar?

Now Jaguar has unveiled its new electric car there's a huge battle just starting over the batteries that will power it.

At WMG, formerly the Warwick Manufacturing Group, based on the University of Warwick campus, researchers are working hard to make sure it's British battery technology that triumphs.

Read full article A jolt for the electric car industry in the Midlands

'Smart' insulin could drastically reduce injections

  • 30 December 2016
  • From the section England
Project team
Image caption The research project, based at the University of Birmingham, could take 10 years until it reaches clinical trials

For people with type 1 diabetes much of their time is spent controlling the disease by testing their blood and injecting insulin.

For young people with diabetes it's particularly complicated, but even old hands sometimes just experience "diabetes burnout" where it all seems totally overwhelming.

Read full article 'Smart' insulin could drastically reduce injections

Farmers are abandoning traditional ploughing

  • 16 December 2016
  • From the section England
Fork going into soil
Image caption The farmer at Overbury Farms says his soil has definitely improved since they stopped ploughing

There is no more familiar sight in the countryside than a tractor pulling a plough.

Ploughing remains more or less the same now as it was hundreds of years ago.

Read full article Farmers are abandoning traditional ploughing