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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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How we supported this year's gold medal YEN winner, Tim Lamyman

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This week we were delighted to hear that one of our customers, Tim Lamyman, has scooped both a silver and gold medal in this year's Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) competition. Congratulations, Tim!

The 2019/20 cropping season was one that none of us will forget in a hurry, with one of the wettest autumns and winters in recent history. This was followed in quick succession by a drought and low levels of incoming solar radiation during the key grain filling period. 

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Using grain protein to plan your nitrogen rates

Frontier nitrogen

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

Fertiliser spread

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

Flooded-soil

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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Potatoes - Meeting nutrition demands

Potato nutrition demand

Potatoes are not unique in this respect, but virtually all of their macro-nutrients applications are made before the crop is planted and well before the peak uptake of nutrients that happens 60-75 days after emergence. This, coupled with the plant's naturally poor inherent ability for rooting, means that efficient uptake of nutrients is always challenging.

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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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Carbon Farming: Part One

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Carbon farming is a 21st-century buzzword and the pressure is on for modern farmers to take account of their carbon footprint. However, this drive to 'go green' can seem at odds with the commercial objectives of a profitable farm.

Yet, none of us can escape the inevitable changes ahead. The government has committed to the goal of a carbon-neutral UK by 2050. This is an increase from the 80% reduction in greenhouse gases that was agreed to in the Climate Change Act of 2008.

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Welcome dry weather but implications for liquid fertiliser

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The recent dry weather has been incredibly welcome and has finally allowed drills, sprayers and fertiliser spreaders to roll across the country. But, dare I ask, how long will it be before we're looking for some fresh rain?!

There is clearly a massive variation in growth stage and condition of the autumn crops across the country, but the more forward crops have started to get hold of applied nitrogen and actually look quite good .At the other extreme, some of the most backward crops are not that far ahead of the spring cereals that are now going in the ground. As long as reasonable seedbeds can be achieved and drilling doesn't get delayed, the potential for these spring crops should be good. 

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What are the nutrition implications following the autumn/winter rainfall?

Flooded-soil

Well, it won't be surprising to learn that many soils will have lost nitrogen via leaching.

To demonstrate the impact, AHDB has produced a map to show the winter rainfall classification. This forms part of the RB209 book method for producing a Soil Nitrogen Supply (SNS) index and is a good starting point as you begin to look at your nitrogen programme for this spring. 

However, rather than rely solely on this information, our team at Frontier decided to carry out the measurement of Soil Mineral Nitrogen (kg N/ha) at a number of nationwide trial sites. The findings are outlined in the below table.

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Maize seed dressings uncovered

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The relentless wet weather is likely to mean that more growers will be growing maize this season; either for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. Maize is a crop that needs careful management and seed treatments are an important part of that management that have seen some significant changes.

Most maize growers will be aware of the challenges we now face with the loss of the active ingredient methiocarb; best known as the seed treatment Mesurol. This seed treatment has for years provided class leading bird repellence, particularly against rook damage and other corvids, to the extent that some will have forgotten quite how damaging these pests can be. 

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Take extra care with field operations this spring

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The rain we've experienced over the last year has left many areas very wet and soil more vulnerable to damage. A planned and careful approach to spring operations could minimise soil damage and even start remediation in some cases.

Many soils will not have adequately dried out and compaction is accentuated by tyres that are too hard and high axle weight. Every effort must be made to use the lowest appropriate tyre pressures for each field operation and to minimise total axle weights, if necessary by carrying part loads of seed and fertiliser to the field. Only radial tyres should be used, cross ply tyres and particularly the super single tyre, found on heavy goods vehicles with tyre pressures of 70 plus psi, should never be used on arable land.

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Polysulphate fertilisers could give pulse growers a spring boost

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Sulphur is a key component of successful crop production; as important as nitrogen when it comes to planning nutrient applications. A multi-nutrient sulphate fertiliser range from ICL called Polysulphate is one that we've recently introduced to our range and is something I am talking about to many of the growers I advise.

Two new Polysulphate products, PKpluS and PotashpluS are especially of topical interest to the increasing number of farmers considering spring pulses on the back of dismal autumn weather. 

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Do you have a phosphorus problem?

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In the UK, we don't have a domestic supply of artificial phosphorous fertiliser and so are therefore reliant on imported sources of nutrient phosphorus. Part of this means that we often experience some volatility in pricing, usually influenced by fluctuations in currency, available volume, country of origin and – more recently – political developme...
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Next time you log into MySOYL...

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I was recently speaking to a SOYL customer on the phone as he logged back into MySOYL for the first time in a few months. As I talked him through the steps, he hesitated when he got to the main dashboard after logging in. "What do all these other buttons do?" he queried. ​ He was referring to some of the other applications available alongside MySOY...
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Lime application plans in under a minute

Liming
Whilst the combines have been rolling, I have been speaking to an increasing number of customers and advisers who are looking to prepare for 2020 harvest crops. A common topic often covered is liming policy and the challenges associated with planning and prioritising applications. We have previously posted about the benefits of correcting soil pH a...
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Maximizing grassland production

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Much of the grass in Herefordshire, where I am based, suffered during the difficult weather conditions of 2018 and consequently producers should focus on optimising nutrition to restore both quality and yield potential to former levels, with K and S being essential in this process. This season NKS fertilisers containing potash and sulphur alongside...
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OSR - The final nutrition decision

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It has been somewhat of a harrowing year for the OSR crop, with wide spread establishment issues followed by flea beetle larval damage leading to a number of crops unfortunately being ripped up.The remaining crops have gone on to endure some late frosts during flowering but, thanks to recent rainfall and warm weather, the good crops are now coming ...
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Surprise Easter weather increases risk of losses on liquid fertiliser

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The rise in temperatures forecast this weekend beckons the prospect of one of the warmest Easters on record. While many people's thoughts will turn to firing up the barbecue or joining a queue of traffic heading for the nearest beach, arable farmers will earmark the time to get out and on with spring land work. Generally dry conditions have allowed...
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The Variable Rate Seed myth

OSR-drilling
We introduced variable rate seed over 15 years ago and the benefits, including that of a yield increase of 4.2% over flat rate drilling, are well documented . However, every now and then I come across individuals who think that doing variable rate seed avoids the need for variable rate applications of nitrogen. This is a myth. Where did the myth co...
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