Field grain analysis can help determine the success of your fertiliser programme

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With harvest just beginning, now seems a sensible time to draw breath and assess the season before harvest gets in full swing followed in short order by establishing next year's crops.

And what a season it's been. Yes, there have been weather events to talk about, especially the dry April and for some also the first half of May and most of June, but these pale in comparison to the economic impacts we've seen in the last 12 months.No more so than in my world of fertiliser, where an initial new season price for AN back in June 2021 - at 81p/kg N (£280/t) - was considered by some to be too expensive, only to then rise dramatically during the season to an eye watering £2.68/kg N (£925/t) at the peak.

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Clubroot – mitigating a growing problem

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Oilseed rape crops have been through a tough time due to the threat posed by cabbage stem flea beetle. In addition, the crop has also faced some very challenging establishment periods. In response growers have adapted how they establish oilseed rape and many have now resorted to drilling the crop throughout a bigger window than what has been done in the past. There's now also a greater emphasis on drilling crops when the conditions are right, rather than just going by calendar date.

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The value of pod sealants for oilseed rape

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The economics of growing oilseed rape have fundamentally changed over the last few years. Throughout this period, we have seen its value move from approximately £320/t in harvest 2020, to £440/t in 2021, to the heights of 2022 of £900/t. Currently, this has come back to £550/t for harvest. The crop has never been so valuable.

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Managing your shoot: Planning ahead and navigating current challenges

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Last year, those of you overseeing sporting activity contended with many challenges due to Covid restrictions. While we're still feeling the effects of the pandemic, this year has seen another virus impact the industry - bird flu.

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Nitrogen guidance for milling wheat

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At this time of year, I'm often asked: "How much nitrogen should I apply to my milling wheat crops?" My tongue-in-cheek response to that question is often: "Tell me exactly how much your crop is going to yield and then I'll be able to give you a guide on nitrogen rates." Now, clearly it is impossible to know the exact yield you are going to achieve at this stage so a definitive answer will always be hard but even so, I believe all milling wheat growers should fully understand the impact yield has on the nitrogen requirement for their crops.

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Minimising nitrogen losses in your fertiliser programme

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Last year, I wrote a blog on how to increase nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) to improve your farm efficiency rating and part of this looked at the impact of nitrogen losses.Following on from this DEFRA recently announced a non-regulatory approach which outlines how to reduce ammonia emissions from any urea-based fertilisers.

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Frontrunner - 11th February 2022

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The threat of conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to generate price volatility in world wheat markets. The week started with an optimistic view from traders that a diplomatic solution to the tensions could be found following a seemingly successful meeting between French president Emmanuel Macron and Russian president Vladimir Putin. This triggered a bout of selling on futures markets on Tuesday.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by farm trader, Sophie Powell. 

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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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The important role of supplementary feeding

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As a nation, I think it's fair to say we are all interested in the well-being of our wildlife, particularly those species which can often be at risk. While looking at some of the more recent bird count results published by the RSPB and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), it's clear to see that conservation efforts in the UK are starting to pay back and produce a slow but positive increase in our songbird populations. But the work is far from over.

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Value of nitrogen: the importance of well-informed decisions

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The word 'unprecedented' very accurately describes what has happened in the fertiliser world this year but even that doesn't seem enough to convey the exceptional rise in price and shortage of supply. In 25 years, I haven't seen anything like these price levels; to be honest I don't think I expected to see them in my working life and I still have a...
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Maize: Season review and post-harvest soil management with cover crops

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Maize is a high-value crop with a number of uses and so it is not surprising to see that the planted area is increasing year on year. With harvest now complete, it's a good opportunity to think about the learnings from this season as well as any steps you can take to reduce overwinter soil erosion and nutrient loss following removal of the crop.

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Optimising beet yield if delaying lifting to increase sugars

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Right now, beet crops are looking good. We're seeing high plant stand and root weight and, on the whole, virus yellows appear to be even lower than predicted after the cold spring.

However, while a reduction in the number of usual sunshine hours didn't impact oilseed rape yields this season - possibly because the frosts helped with canopy management – it's reported that the sugar percentage in beet needs time to increase to ensure haulage of good, adjusted tonnage. 

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Basic to broad analysis: Putting everything under the microscope to push for better yield

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"We're on a journey". That's what I say to my crop production customers when they see me take yet another set of tissue samples from the same fields that we started tissue testing over five years ago.

Over the years, I've formed a true partnership approach with my customers when it comes to crop nutrition. In the early days, soil analysis consisted of only measuring the most basic components: pH, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. In addition, tissue analysis was taken sporadically here and there throughout the season.

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Preparing oilseed rape for harvest

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Harvest is just around the corner for oilseed rape and there are some final but important tasks required now that the crop has reached this point in its life cycle. Across the country, many oilseed rape crops have been looking well but this means that careful consideration is required when planning desiccation and necessary steps should be taken to safeguard crop potential.

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A role for catch and cover crops in soil management?

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In the second blog of this soil management series, we review how catch and cover crops can play an integral role in post-harvest soil management, including the options available and how their inclusion can support stewardship. The first blog in this series focussed on pre-harvest soil management and you can read it here.

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Develop your soil management plan pre-harvest

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​In the first blog of this soil management series, we're exploring why it's vital to start planning for soil management in autumn-drilled crops well in advance of planting; when the previous crop is still in the ground.

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The fourth major plant nutrient

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​The low levels of sulphur we see today are not a new problem. Rather, it is something we've been aware of for over 30 years; ever since the first sulphur-deficient oilseed rape crops were seen on very light soils. Over time, this deficiency has progressed and now impacts virtually all crops and soil types. By looking at the factors that influence sulphur availability, you can make informed decisions and opt for products that match your crops' sulphur demand. 

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Managing the volatility of the fertiliser markets: A look back at the fertiliser market in 2020

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The 2020-2021 growing season will be remembered by growers for many things: lockdown, online meetings, the unpredictable weather and volatility in both the grain and fertiliser markets.

The link between grain and fertiliser markets is a complex one. When grain prices are higher, it drives demand for fertiliser. In other words, food security creates demand. However, perhaps over this last year, it has been Covid-19 that has had the greatest impact of all on the high nitrogen values we've seen.

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Assessing the nitrogen requirements of milling wheat

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As my colleague, Edward Downing, explained in his blog about final nitrogen decisions for cereals, the wet autumn and winter has really thrown up some challenges.

After extensive rainfall early in the new year, we went into one of the coldest but driest spring seasons on record. Today though, I think we'd all agree that weather pattern has broken. May has, so far, been riddled with unsettled conditions – you might forgive some people for thinking we were actually in October.

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