Environmental Land Management blog series: 3/ Taking environmental management digital

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This blog is the third and final to be published as part of our Environmental Land Management blog series. In the previous blog, we looked at what you will need to do if you decide to enter your land into the arable and horticultural soils standard of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). You can read it here.

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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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Working with AB9 and spring-sown bird seed plots this season

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In a blog published earlier this week my colleague and senior Kings technical advisor, Meehal Grint shared some useful advice on ground and plot management for game cover and wild bird seed crops, as well as new difficulties brought on by the recent bird flu outbreak.

While out on visits to farms and estates, an area we've seen particular interest is the correct establishment of AB9s and similar alternatives.

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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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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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The Environmental Land Management scheme - What does the latest update tell us?

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It's well understood that the turn of a new year often brings with it some updated farm policy. Evolving requirements, subsidy scheme adaptations and legislation are certainly nothing new.

This is the case again for 2022, only the changes ahead are some of the biggest our industry has seen. It's no understatement when we say there's a been a lot for farmers (and advisors) to digest in recent months and there are still some new policy elements to be clarified. 

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Undersowing maize – A demonstration event

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Maize is an important crop on many farms across the country, from east to west and increasingly north to south. For those growing it, however, there are some issues which can arise from bare maize stubbles left over winter and it's important to mitigate them. If left, the land can become vulnerable to surface water runoff, soil erosion and nitrate leaching.

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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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Getting the best from your fallow

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​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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Supporting your farmland birds this winter

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With increasingly erratic weather patterns - this year being no exception - one thing that remains constant is the lack of food availability for farmland birds over the course of the winter and early spring months.  

When out on farm, we are often shown some really excellent wild bird seed mix plots which provide a mass of food for our seed-eating birds, but no matter how much care and attention is given to these plots, birds will invariably run out of seed by January. This is where supplementary winter feeding comes in...

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Greening post-2020: What does it all mean?

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As I'm sure many of you have noticed given the many news articles in recent weeks, there is still quite a bit of noise surrounding the change to greening rules for 2021.

While the announcement from George Eustice may have come on the 27th July, there is still an air of confusion amongst many growers, particularly in relation to current agreements and how best to plan ahead. This has been further amplified following the recent news confirming that there may now be a 'stepping stone' subsidy scheme from 2022 to cover the transition period to the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme which is due to launch in 2024.  If you're feeling uncertain about the requirements now or what to do next, we've put some answers to common questions below.

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Getting the best from your summer-sown cover crops

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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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Can you benefit from bare land?

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​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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Countryside Stewardship now open for 2021 agreements

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First things first – the window for Countryside Stewardship applications is now open!

As of 11th February, farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers now have the ability to request 2020 application packs. Information and forms are available on the gov.uk website and you can also ask for your application pack by email, choosing whether to receive it electronically or by post. 

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Make the most of your ‘natural capital’

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'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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Countryside Stewardship – too good an opportunity to miss

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As we enter a period of change in agriculture, don't let niggles stop you acting to seize this huge opportunity. Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to go out for a meal unencumbered by children. As my mind works in rather convoluted ways, our time at the restaurant had me thinking about the parallels between what we experienced and, oddly,...
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Cover crop destruction: timings, species and methods

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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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Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS)

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Earlier this month I attended Natural England's RBAPS (known formerly as 'Payment by Results') conference which took place in Norfolk, not far from the Kings' office at Diss. With Brexit looming, the conference was especially topical. The Rt Hon the Lord Blencathra, deputy chair of Natural England, addressed all delegates in the morning and explain...
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DISCOVERING ICEBERGS at Frontier’s NRoSO sprayer operator days

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Our ever-popular sprayer operator days will soon be upon us. As well as a great lunch and sufficient NRoSO points to ensure status on the register is secured, the events give farmers and sprayer operators valuable insight into current industry issues and the chance to discuss guidelines and best practice recommendations. Conversations are always to...
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Supplementary feeding farmland birds

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The widespread decline of some of our most prominent farmland birds such as grey partridge, yellowhammer, tree sparrow and linnet is well known. A leading contributor to their plight is the so called 'hungry gap'; a period from December to April where there is a shortage of food in the wider countryside for farmland birds due to the natural depleti...
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