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Providing farmland birds a lifeline this winter

As we enter early January and temperatures begin to fall, foraging time for farmland birds is at its lowest and food sources start to run out. This period is often referred to as the 'hungry gap' and usually lasts from December through to April - the hardest time for many of our beloved wild bird species to survive.

As we enter this peak period for food requirements, your carefully managed wild bird seed plots will start looking thinner and a lot of the seed will have fallen to the ground and been eaten. The good news is that growers and land managers are increasingly taking up the option of supplementary feeding, either as part of an existing Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme, or simply because it's a great thing to do.

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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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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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Inspiring production: Growing cereals and oilseed crops for world record yields

Lincolnshire farmer, Tim Lamyman is synonymous with growing record combinable crop yields, so much so that he's now outdone his previous successes.

Following Tim's achievements in 2021, we were thrilled to learn of his recent accolades, having achieved a new world record for winter wheat with a staggering 17.96t/ha and specific weight of 83.6kg/hl with the DSV variety Champion.

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Celebrate 10 years of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count and get involved

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust's (GWCT) Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC). As the founder of this initiative, I am overwhelmingly pleased to see it is still going strong and that so many of you are continuing to take part.

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Considerations for the establishment of spring crops

Good establishment of spring crops is critical for optimising yield and getting them off to the best start also provides well-known cultural grassweed control benefits. Spring may seem a long way off but with some growers opting to drill spring wheat and barley in late autumn or early winter, considering everything from seed rates, weed control, soil management, nutrition, pests and disease will stand crops in good stead for the season.

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Supporting farmland birds this winter with supplementary feeding

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Supplementary feeding provides a vital lifeline for farmland birds in late winter and early spring on arable and mixed farms. It supplements crops of wild bird seed mix with additional seed such as cereal, oilseed and specialised grains like sunflowers, canary seed and millets. No matter how well wild bird seed plots are managed, they will inevitably run out of seed during late winter (December to April), a period known as the 'hungry gap'. Supplementary feeding plugs the hungry gap and enables farmland birds to enter the breeding season in a strong position.

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Data-based drilling – How can data support continued gains in crop performance?

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Much has already been said about the weather that we've experienced in recent months and even with some rain predicted, it is likely to be a challenging drilling season for many. For me, the weather highlights the importance of being able to understand your soils and use that information to make changes to your strategy. Whether it is the creation of the best seedbed in difficult circumstances, or the adjustment of your seed rates to attempt to counteract the conditions, often even small changes can make a big difference.

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The important role of supplementary feeding

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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Variable rate seed: The ability to adapt

As I begin to think about variable rate seed, I can't help getting out of my head that for the past year there has been a lot of talk of change and adapting within agriculture. The more I thought about it, I concluded (probably later than many others) that agriculture has always been a case of adapting whether it be to new products, new machinery, new guidance or the ever-changing weather.

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Frontrunner - 25th June 2021

Wheat futures have slipped lower this week. London November 2021 wheat futures closed below £170/t for the first time since mid-April. Grain markets have been pressured by wetter and cooler weather across the primary US corn producing states, which are conditions that are ideal for the pollination period and signal improved yield potential.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report. The report this week is read by marketing assistant, Faye Lee.

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Frontrunner - 5th March 2021

World wheat markets have slipped this week. A lack of fresh bullish features has led to spells of profit taking from speculative buyers who still carry significant long positions in grain futures markets. US weekly wheat export shipments and sales were particularly disappointing. However, the weekly export pace from the EU was far more encouraging. Wheat shipments for last week were one million tonnes, taking the total now shipped to over 17.5 million tonnes.

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

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

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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Frontrunner - 6th November 2020

Earlier this week, wheat markets eased lower following concerns that the increasing impact of Covid-19 will lead to cuts in global demand for grains, particularly from the fuel sector. Wheat price gains made in the second half of October were all but lost. However, on Thursday, the US Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) soybean market jumped to $11 per bushel, a four-year high, which pulled world wheat prices higher with it.

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

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Frontrunner - 31st July 2020

Last Friday, global markets saw a considerable lift following reports of significant export sales to China from the US for corn and soybeans. On Monday, however, this lift was wiped out on the back of increased Russian wheat crop estimates and less than expected US wheat shipments. The Institute of Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) increased its Russian wheat production estimate to 78 million tonnes. This is up from 76.5 million tonnes previously and comes as a result of the higher yields being seen in the Black Earth region, which are moving the average closer to that of last year due to the increased area drilled.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report.

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Frontrunner - 5th June 2020

Rain arriving in the UK, northern Europe and Black Sea countries has been viewed as beneficial for the drought-stricken wheat crops in these regions, triggering a wave of selling on wheat futures markets earlier this week.

UK prices suffered particularly, losing as much as 40% of the gains they made during May. Values were not helped by the 1% gain of sterling against the euro. However, there was a notable turnaround on Thursday, led by wheat futures from the US Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), which rallied to a six-week high... 

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

This week's report is read by Barley Trader, Westly Garner.

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Frontrunner - 20th March 2020

The impact of coronavirus continues to be the primary driver for financial and commodity markets. World wheat prices saw significant volatility this week, driven by exaggerated moves in foreign exchange rates and high nearby consumer demand. The Bank of England cut UK interests rates to a record low of just 0.1% and, with the British government introducing other financially supportive measures for the UK economy, sterling fell by 6.5% versus the euro. As a result, London wheat futures rallied to new contract highs for November 2020 and, from the lowest to the highest, achieved a spread in prices of £12/t. The euro also fell versus the US dollar, adding value to European wheat prices. Demand for bread products increased as panic buying cleared supermarket shelves, brought millers back to the market, and added weight to the increase in old crop wheat prices.

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Maize seed dressings uncovered

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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​Control with Clearfield technology

With some long overdue rain finally dampening seed beds in the past week, oilseed rape drilling is now well underway for many parts of the UK.However, for some of us the fields are already playing host to thousands of OSR plants, well before we've even set to work putting next year's crop in the ground. These early occupants haven't come from the d...

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