December marks the start of the festive period and as the song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." However, for a young aspiring agronomist December is not all about winding down, but gearing up! The winter months give an ideal opportunity for meetings, discussion groups, farm planning, cropping reports, assessing harvest results and performance and training courses.
A morning can be very well spent going through next season's nutrient and manure management plans or going over the new, ever changing and more detailed, Red Tractor standards. Nutrient management plans must be completed before fertiliser is applied and manure management plans must be in place before the 31st April, so a start made in early December ensures compliance for the spring.
I am currently touring the east to collect data for farms that have employed the Frontier MyCompliance team to complete their compliance plans. Each meeting takes about an hour of the famer's time and 4 weeks later a comprehensive up-to-date plan arrives in the post.
There's nothing like planning ahead
We recently ran a farmer meeting to discuss the 2019/2020 beet crop – a little early I hear you cry, but I think this is the perfect time to start thinking about this valuable break crop. Field selections, planned lifting times, soil sampling, cover cropping, storage, previous crop and following crop are all important decisions to be made – not to mention variety selection. It is also important to have the discussion about the possible loss of Poncho Beta and Cruiser Force (neonicotinoid) seed dressings and what implications this might have on beet growing going forward.
The winter months also give us, as a team, time to meet up and discuss strategy for the spring, talk about what worked well and not so well during the autumn, complete some IT training (a quick lesson for some...) and to discuss the recently deciphered trials results from the summer. Yield results are important but it is often the more detailed analysis that gives the most value – buying yield is not always the most profitable! These meetings are detailed, intensive and require a fair bit of note taking, but a good lunch and plenty of coffee sees us all through and it is great to catch up with colleagues in anticipation of our Christmas party!
No hibernation here
As the temperatures drop, the winter drilled crops begin to slow, disease pressure falls away and weeds stop emerging so the requirement for crop walking drops. That said, it is still prudent to check anyway as you just never know.
The lack of daylight and upsurge in training means that December can often be a hectic, busy month. So, spare a thought for your agronomist this Christmas period, stuck out in the cold and sleet and snow. Next time he/she pops round to go through a plan or go over some results, give them a hot chocolate (and don't be afraid to add some marshmallows).
Agronomist, Swaffham Office, Norfolk
For specific advice for your business related to this blog or any other aspect of crop production get in touch with Frontier.