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Getting the best from your fallow

​With more growers now getting involved with Countryside Stewardship, a key option that many are selecting is the AB15 two-year legume fallow. This option is proving to be particularly popular as growers weigh up the pros and cons of various break crops, including oilseed rape.

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When it rains it pours: Managing your wild bird seed and game crops

​Unpredictable weather seems to be the order of the day at the moment. After what was a very dry and cold April, May has brought about warmer temperatures and a considerable amount of rainfall. At Kings, much of our time had been spent advising growers not to drill wild bird seed and game cover crops too early but given the drastic change in weather, we're now finding that many simply cannot get onto plots because it is too wet.

Now that we are entering the peak planting window from mid-May through to mid-June, I've compiled some timely points of advice to help you make the most of the next four weeks. 

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Getting the best from your summer-sown cover crops

As a result of the dreadful winter weather, many headlands, fields and even blocks of land were unfortunately not fit enough for spring combinable crop planting. Growers were therefore faced with two options: leave the area bare and unplanted, or plant an economical green cover crop to harvest sunlight and convert that energy into valuable biomass for the soil.

Many growers opted for the latter and, as you look around the countryside there is now a wealth of summer fallow crops on display, with the likes of sunflowers and oil radish putting on quite the show.

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Companion crops: supporting OSR establishment

While the place of oilseed rape as a commercial break crop has been unchallenged for many years, increased pressure from cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) in many regions – coupled with other variables such as soil type, previous cropping considerations, moisture availability and variety choice – has meant that the successful establishment of the crop requires some important planning.

Fortunately though, for those considering oilseed rape in next year's rotation, there could be quite an innovative 'tool' available within the establishment 'workshop'.

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Can you benefit from bare land?

​Although the sun is out (as I write this anyway) I recognise that many areas of land are still plenty wet enough, and getting jobs done is tricky enough without getting covered in mud as soon as you hit a waterlogged bit of ground. That said, the upside is that many growers will be reviewing cropping plans on almost a weekly basis to ensure they are reflective of current conditions. 

With potentially 50% of the UK winter wheat crop sown there remains, subject to your area, a significant proportion of land yet to be planted. Spring crop opportunities remain unpredictable so, if some bare land is looking a likely scenario for the farm on which you work, you may want to think about the opportunities associated with it.

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The route to recovery

Over recent weeks, from growers to advisors, we have all been doing our very best when it comes to taking an optimistic view when it comes to crossing our fingers for improving weather conditions. Each break in the rain was seen as a chink of light in what has been otherwise a torrid autumn when it comes to harvesting and planting progress.

All said and done it is clear now what we are faced with - crops of maize, beet and potatoes still in the ground; farmland flooded or at best waterlogged and a significant area of land previously allocated to autumn sown crops still unplanted. 

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Turning Countryside Stewardship negatives into positives

The Kings team has delivered a series of grower workshops across a number of regions in recent weeks to provide support and insight on a wide range of land-based topics. These included getting the best from Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), guidance on simplified offers from Natural England, and how best to integrate stewardship and sporting interests...

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Make the most of your ‘natural capital’

'Natural capital' is a relatively new phrase within UK agriculture. We spoke about it as part of our presentations at this year's 3D Thinking seminars and it sparked a real interest amongst growers. As we explored the phrase's definition and what it meant for farmers, our audience soon recognised the importance of 'boarding the agri-environment bus...

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Cover crop destruction: timings, species and methods

Nearly everyone is talking about cover crops. Soil health and ways to preserve it have been prominent topics at recent farmer meetings that I've spoken at and the area of cover crops planted post-harvest has significantly increased. This isn't really surprising given the growing focus on water quality and last January's change in Ecological Focus A...

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Best practice for warm weather and high temperatures

With the hot and dry weather set to continue, Kings sales manager, Richard Barnes, discusses the impact for game cover and wild bird seed crops across the UK and how to manage them for best results.   Having been an advisor with Kings for 15 years, how does this year's weather compare to that of previous years? Every year has its own challenge...

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When is best to drill your game and stewardship crops?

With the sun shining and spring positively blooming just now, many growers will be overcome with the itch to start drilling. However, it's worth asking yourself - is now really a good time to drill your game cover, wild bird seed, nectar flower and other stewardship features? Good things come to those who wait In most instances (especially for kale...

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Thoughts from the field

Over the last two weeks, my travels have taken me as far as the Scottish Borders right down to glorious Exmoor. Along the way I've been stopping off to visit customers and present to growers, both of which have offered me a fascinating insight into where the farming, greening and sporting worlds are currently at. To better explain, I thought it wou...

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Grey partridges need you

After a long and protracted harvest for many we are now seeing fields cleared leaving land and farm managers who have an interest in farmland wildlife with a hugely rewarding and valuable task to undertake... counting grey partridges! The grey partridge is a key farmland bird indicator species and helps to show that your hard work in terms of habit...

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Accepting EFA changes... and embracing them!

The latest Ecological Focus Area (EFA) changes announced for 2018 have caused much speculation among my colleagues and growers too. In particular, people have been very animated about the loss of crop protection products within EFAs, with some seeing it as reducing the value of EFA options on farm. Meanwhile, DEFRA termed this as a complete BAN whi...

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