Environmental Land Management blog series: 1/ We answer your questions about the scheme

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While the industry appears to have well and truly embarked on the transition into a 'new era' now, a level of uncertainty remains around the new funding opportunities and ongoing changes to agri-environment schemes.

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‘Work smarter, not harder’ by managing your environmental features digitally

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This is a phrase we are all familiar with – in fact, in the past few years I've rarely gone more than two conferences or webinars without someone saying it, including me. However, now more than ever it resonates with me for our industry. Growers are increasingly having to become experts in several areas: not only are you crop production specialists but also environmental managers, accountants, HR advisors and many more things to boot.

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Enhancing farm efficiency with variable rate nitrogen – What do the latest trials results tell us?

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The start of a new year is often when most of us traditionally think back to what has happened over the past 12 months before looking ahead at those to come.

Before Christmas, we published this news release announcing some exciting digital investments that have upgraded our variable rate nitrogen service for 2022. One of the most significant developments is the adoption of radar technology, meaning users can now access cloud-free imagery.

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Making the Sustainable Farming Incentive work for your farm: Crop production and environmental management don’t need to be competitive

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At the beginning of December the government released further detail on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and how the widescale roll-out to all growers will work in 2022.

Before we look further into the options available to growers later in the blog, it is worth emphasising from the start that the SFI offers a real opportunity for growers to align and unify their crop production goals with their environmental goals. We know that crop and food production are central to farm decision-making but, given what we've seen of the SFI so far, it appears it will be easier to farm in a way that offers environmental benefits while supporting sustainable crop production systems - and receive financial support for doing so.

So, what do we know about the Sustainable Farming Incentive?

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Variable rate seed: The ability to adapt

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As I begin to think about variable rate seed, I can't help getting out of my head that for the past year there has been a lot of talk of change and adapting within agriculture. The more I thought about it, I concluded (probably later than many others) that agriculture has always been a case of adapting whether it be to new products, new machinery, new guidance or the ever-changing weather.

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Opportunities to make soil sampling pay

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With a bullish global fertiliser market pushing prices up as we approach the new season, the importance of soil sampling to help optimise inputs is arguably greater than ever before. When you combine this with the recent Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) release stating growers can be financially rewarded for monitoring and improving soil health, it's not surprising to learn that sampling is becoming a greater priority.

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Getting direction from your maps

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​As we head into another harvest, it's important to get your bearings and plan your route ahead for the next and following cropping years. The concept of 'mapping your future' isn't new to everyone, but it has grown in significance following recent announcements about the Environment Land Management (ELM) scheme and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). In fact, specific 'standards' or 'land management actions' have been highlighted as a key part of the SFI and monitoring activity and results is central to the scheme.

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Economic and yield returns: The results of SOYL’s variable rate nitrogen trials in 2020

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At SOYL, we have been running an extensive precision farming research and development programme for nearly 30 years. The work is central to the value of our technology and services, and today we now possess one of the largest trial databases in the world. A significant part of this work involves trials to compare our variable rate application approach against flat rate applications.

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How will variable rate nitrogen affect my sulphur applications?

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It's one of the first questions we face from growers when discussing variable rate nitrogen (VRN) and it's understandable given sulphur is one of the major nutrients required by plants. If optimum amounts aren't available, it will have a direct impact on end yield.

As it happens, in nearly all of these conversations our recommendation to growers is to apply sulphur variably alongside their nitrogen in order to achieve optimum yields and quality. Of course, as with all nutritional decisions, some forward planning is required.

With this in mind, we're going to address some common questions to help you plan for the spring and ensure you get the maximum benefits from variably applying sulphur.

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Optimising nitrogen inputs: measuring residual N with satellite imagery

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I'll admit that at first sight filling your tractor with oil and planning your nitrogen applications don't appear to have much in common but in one simple way they are very similar. Before you do both, you need to know how much you've already got in the tank or in the soil, so you know exactly how much more you need to put in.

When it comes to nitrogen applications, rates should only be decided once you have fully assessed the requirements of your crops. As well as thinking about inputs, this also means making an informed judgement on how much nitrogen will be supplied by your soils.

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Using grain protein to plan your nitrogen rates

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The nitrogen inputs to your crops can be one of the most important factors that influence crop output and, ultimately, the profitability of your business. There is a wealth of tools and information to help guide you when it comes to applying the optimum rate of nitrogen, but how do you know if you are actually getting it right and making the best use of these applications to maximise your financial return?

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P and K blog series: The important considerations for post-harvest applications

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The stark variation across the country has continued into harvest this year, with some areas completed a couple of weeks ago while others are struggling to make real headway as a result of the wet weather. Where completed, the SOYL applications team has been busy processing fertiliser recommendations ready for post-harvest P and K applications - allowing new season orders to be booked. 

For many growers though, doing this raises the question: What considerations should be made when planning P and K management?

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Understand your farm's profitability with margin maps

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With an increased focus on farm finances, I am finding that there is a greater drive from our customers to combine some of the data routinely collected through precision farming to get a better insight into farm profitability.

Our margin map tool uses yield data and simple costs to produce financial performance maps that not only provide a field average, but also show the spatial variation in profitability. By including yield data and costs for multiple years, you can easily analyse financial performance across your whole rotation instead of just year by year.

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P and K blog series: Managing levels after extreme weather events

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We've certainly seen Mother Nature go from one extreme to the next in recent months. Given the incredibly dry April and May experienced this spring, it is difficult to comprehend that February was actually the wettest on record. Let us not forget that this also followed the consistently above-average rainfall throughout autumn and winter too.

However, a generally kind March and early April allowed for some substantial spring cropping. While somewhat of a forced change for many, this - coupled with the extremes in weather - has significantly impacted the nutrition requirements for this and potentially next year's crops.

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P and K blog series: The building blocks of overall plant health

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Phosphorus and potassium are vital for photosynthesis and water regulation – but how much of them do you need to guarantee healthy plants?

Precision technology can play an important role when it comes to successful nutrient management. With P and K in particular, there is a considerable benefit to carrying out nutrient mapping and variable rate applications of fertiliser in that you are able to individually deal with field areas that are both below, at and above the critical level. 

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Are you making the most of biomass imagery?

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Unlike some of the advances in precision farming, biomass imagery doesn't require specialist or expensive equipment. In fact all that's really needed is a computer and a desire to discover some information that could be of value to your farm business.

Surprisingly, however, there are a number of farmers who are not fully utilising biomass imagery and its benefits – but why the reluctance?

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Carbon Farming: Part Two

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This is part two in our carbon management blog series. To read part one, click here.

Farmers are in a unique position of having great power to implement carbon sequestration measures. Carbon sequestration is the technical term for carbon capture. Carbon can be captured in the oceans, in natural rock formations, and in the earth. As an industry that deals heavily in soil management, agriculture is in a unique position for optimising on carbon sequestration opportunities.

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Cutting your fuel costs with variable rate

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I'm sure farmers across the UK breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday, as it was confirmed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tax break on red diesel would remain in place for the agricultural industry.

Over the past week, farmers have been steeling themselves for a potential 50% rise in fuel costs following reports that the tax relief was going to be scrapped altogether as part of the 2020 Budget. While the news is a positive outcome for the industry the Chancellor has, however, announced that other sectors will be stripped of the tax exemption in two years' time. 

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'Precision conservation'

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'Precision conservation' is a relatively new phrase within our collective businesses and, as such, it is right to ask the question: What does it actually refer to?

For most, 'precision' and 'conservation' are two words not immediately associated with one another. In an agricultural context, 'conservation' can have us thinking wistfully of tussocky field corners and snaking wildflower margins. Of course, when you really think about it, the location of these features is never by accident. Some planning is always involved and that's when the link between the two words becomes clearer.

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If you only attend one event this winter...

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Over the last 12 years, more than 10,000 customers have attended our annual series of winter events. While we've always covered the latest innovations in precision farming, this year I'm thrilled to say that we'll be sharing some of our most varied and forward-thinking content to date.

From November through to February, we're travelling the breadth of the UK to talk all things digital crop production as part of a series of half-day events. As with previous years, we'll be sharing the latest in precision technology including our research, industry developments and the latest updates to our own tools and applications. However, in a first we'll also be sharing the floor with colleagues from Frontier Agriculture and Kings Crops

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