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Crop nutrition considerations for maize

Earlier this year, we published a blog about the benefits of growing maize in your 2024 rotation and how the crop can deliver a gross margin equal to a first wheat. We mentioned the positive market opportunities for home-grown maize and the Sustainable Farming Incentive actions that could be incorporated with the crop.

In light of the challenging weather we've faced this winter and early spring, maize could be a great alternative cropping option. Whilst maize can be a very successful crop, it will need looking after just like any cereal crop. In this blog, we'll be highlighting what you can do nutrition-wise to ensure your maize crop receives the boost it needs early on to perform well further down the line. 

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Late nitrogen management

If you read my recent blog, you'll be fully informed of how to check the nutrition status of your crop. Attention now turns to final nitrogen applications which will need to be as efficient as possible to make up for this seasons low levels of soil nitrogen.

Your crop requires as much support as possible right now and in this blog I'll be guiding you through the techniques you could implement to ensure this.

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Crop nutrition check – preparing for year ahead

Following on from a previous blog about early nutrition strategies, unfortunately due to continued wet weather there has been limited opportunity to complete many field applications. For some, this has been very 'stop/start'. For others, it's been absolutely impossible to get out in the field.

Many of you will be looking for guidance on how to manage the impacts this is having on farm. Let's look at some pointers on how to keep an eye on crop nutrient health as we enter into a period of peak applications and big biomass growth.

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REMINDER: The new urea application rules for England are almost here

Many of you will be aware of the urea stewardship scheme due to come into force in England from 1st April 2024, however, for some there are still questions as to what the new regulations include.

Back in May 2023 when an early announcement was released about the rules, I outlined everything you needed to know. In this blog, I think some of that information is worthy of a recap, particularly why Defra is focused on the stewardship of urea fertilisers, as well as a reminder of what you need to do in certain scenarios to stay compliant with the regulations. 

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Learnings from sugar beet fungicide and biostimulant trials

Last year I shared some advice in this blog about managing sugar beet to optimise yield, and in it I contemplated what kind of results the autumn was going to bring given some of the widespread late planting we saw.

Now that we're well into 2024, it was great to see the majority of sugar beet crops doing well throughout the tail end of last year. However, for many crops harvest was delayed until January 2024 due to the wet autumn and frosts in early December. 

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Variable rate nitrogen trials results

As the season has been so challenging, it's great to be able to demonstrate the positive results from our variable rate nitrogen (VRN) trials which can make a difference on farm. In this blog, we'll be talking through the benefits and value of this technology, as well as how the findings from the trials can be replicated on your farm to achieve the same positive results.

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Early nutrition strategies for winter cereals: challenges and solutions

The recent wet and mild conditions have brought early crop nutrition into sharp focus and you may be looking to address some of the negative impacts on any autumn-drilled cereal crops.

During autumn 2023, most of the UK experienced significantly above average rainfall and this depleted soils of any residual nitrogen. There's also no doubt that rooting was compromised due to waterlogging. 

This blog is a combination of insights and guidance for crop nutrition, variable rate technology and biostimulants – all of which can play an important role in your spring strategy to boost biomass and maximise profit margins. If you follow some of the below guidance, any lacklustre crops should stand the best chance of turning things around in time.

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Looking back to LAMMA: The benefits of a closed transfer system

Last month, I had the privilege of talking about Frontier's closed transfer system (CTS) at LAMMA as part of the event's Live Theatre sessions. I was thrilled to be able to bring this innovative piece of technology to the show, highlighting the benefits it's already bringing many farmers and sprayer operators at a time when on-farm safety, product stewardship and sustainable farming are extremely important.

While at the event, I had great conversations with visitors about the equipment – many of whom had questions about the technology as well as the practicalities of adopting it on farm. I thought it'd be great to reflect on these discussions here and explain why the closed transfer system is proving such a valuable solution for many growers.

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Could maize be the answer for your 2024 rotation?

Throughout 2023, the weather played its part for many maize growers. Adverse conditions made the task of growing a successful crop interesting to say the least.

Maize sowing was delayed in many areas due to a very wet March and April. It was then followed by drought conditions into June where the heat set maize on its way to record harvest yields. July arrived and so did the rain - just in time for cereal harvest! It almost feels like it hasn't stopped raining since.

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The Recommended List: New wheat varieties will broaden options for 2024

Five new varieties of winter wheat have been added to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Recommended List for 2024. These new arrivals offer valuable alternatives for planting next autumn and bring some much-needed diversity to the feed wheat sector, breathing fresh life into the tired looking Group 1 bread-making and Group 3 biscuit markets.

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Considerations for late drilling in wet conditions

During the recent visit from Storm Babet, exceptional levels of rainfall fell in a short period and saturated a lot of land in many parts of the UK. The concern now – particularly with more rain on the way – is the interruption caused to drilling progress, with some fields already destined for spring cropping. Crops drilled more recently have also been affected by waterlogging and significant runoff, which causes ruts and the loss of seed.

If you've found you're experiencing some of these issues in the aftermath of such severe rainfall, you're probably wondering what the best course of action is. Depending on your situation, there are a few options that could still mean you're able to get a crop in the ground and off to a good start. 

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Using pre-emergence herbicides in wet conditions

The current wet conditions mean slow progress for cereal drilling, with some areas of the UK more severely affected than others. Naturally, such delays are having a subsequent impact on pre-emergence herbicide plans and timings.

The wet weather may mean you're unable to travel on fields, or that your seedbeds cannot receive a herbicide treatment. Even if you can get crops in the ground, imminent rain reduces the chance of applying pre-emergence herbicides within 48 hours of drilling - the optimum timing for grassweed control. 

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The future of oat weed control

This autumn, oat growers across the UK face new crop management considerations following the news that the pre-emergence herbicide, Liberator (flufenacet + diflufenican), can no longer be used on the crop.

The change comes after oats were newly categorised as a 'major crop' by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD), meaning all Extensions of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMUs) have now been revoked. This leaves growers with no residual herbicide options apart from Sempra XL, though this can only be used on oat crops which are being grown for seed.

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Take the chance to boost your forage stocks this autumn

With the relentlessly wet harvest at an end for most - or very nearly at an end - thoughts have already turned towards new season crop establishment.

This time last year, following the very dry summer, many grappled with poor conditions for sowing grass and forage and as a result quite a lot of seed remained in the shed. Our colleague, Dave Harris, did a great blog earlier this year highlighting the value in reseeding grassland and investing into new leys.

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What's all this talk about winter cover crops?

Some of you will be familiar with the use of winter cover crops and may drill them already, but for those of you still with bare land or contemplating them for the first time, there is still an opportunity to bring them into the rotation. With the recent hotter temperatures helping many areas to retain warm soils, conditions are favourable for drilling too, meaning cover could soon be bringing a host of benefits to your farm.

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Minimise the impact of CSFB by getting oilseed rape off to the best start

Despite recent challenges, oilseed rape (OSR) remains a profitable break crop which can also aid grassweed control in your rotation. Of course, success is dependent on good establishment, which in turn relies on strong attention to detail.

Although recent weather patterns may have presented some difficulties for other combinable crops during the harvest period, there is a silver lining in that the increased soil moisture will aid seedbed preparation and drilling. 

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The importance of grain store management

This year we've seen an elevated amount of storage challenges across the industry, a problem faced by both farmers and professional stores alike.

The extreme weather conditions last harvest meant that most crops went into stores without needing to be dried, with some farmers combining crops at night in a bid to avoid the intense heat and elevate moisture content.

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Pre-harvest crop management: desiccation methods

As harvest gets closer, attention is no doubt turning to pre-harvest management of crops. In particular, desiccation using glyphosate is one of the key considerations at this time. Some of you may have already completed desiccation on certain crops but for those who are yet to start, there are considerations to bear in mind.

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Grass and forage - where quality really counts

Choosing a grass reseeding mix can be tricky. Even so, the phrase "No, surely its simple" is one I often hear, as well as assumptions that "one field of green is the same as the next." However, with the quality and diversity of work carried out by plant breeders over the last 70 years or so, each field really is different in terms of output.

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Management of sugar beet to optimise yield

This season the spring weather has aided the establishment of good sugar beet plant populations, which is very positive for final yields. However, the average planting date was much later than we've experienced for many years. Importantly, crops have good potential but their management may need some adjustment from now until harvest to achieve optimum yields.

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