Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

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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Reviving grassland

Grassland

There are many reasons to sow new grass leys, but none more prominent than having some in poor condition following the wettest winter on record and one of the hardest spring droughts.

The recent rainfall will help things but it cannot reverse the damage that's already been done. Unfortunately, many leys have lost key elements, allowing weed grasses such as annual meadow grass, rough stalked meadow grass and couch grass to populate the thinner areas. 

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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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Carbon Farming: Part Three

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​In our last two carbon management blogs, we've been talking about the role agriculture plays in annual carbon emissions and the ways in which growers can reduce their environmental impact through natural capital management. 

Now, while many farmers are choosing to take progressive steps towards carbon management, the law also obligates conventional farmers with over 15 acres of land to create Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs)...

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Carbon Farming: Part Two

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This is part two in our carbon management blog series. To read part one, click here.

Farmers are in a unique position of having great power to implement carbon sequestration measures. Carbon sequestration is the technical term for carbon capture. Carbon can be captured in the oceans, in natural rock formations, and in the earth. As an industry that deals heavily in soil management, agriculture is in a unique position for optimising on carbon sequestration opportunities.

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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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Can you benefit from bare land?

Flooded-soils-5---cropped

​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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Cutting your fuel costs with variable rate

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I'm sure farmers across the UK breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday, as it was confirmed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tax break on red diesel would remain in place for the agricultural industry.

Over the past week, farmers have been steeling themselves for a potential 50% rise in fuel costs following reports that the tax relief was going to be scrapped altogether as part of the 2020 Budget. While the news is a positive outcome for the industry the Chancellor has, however, announced that other sectors will be stripped of the tax exemption in two years' time. 

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Spring barley drilling dates and yield performance

Spring-barley-crop

If you were to ask an agronomist the question, "When should I drill my spring barley?" the most likely answer would be, "In the spring".

While completely correct, the spring covers a fairly significant period in the first quarter of the year and within that time frame, depending on when you decide to take action, you can experience some very different outcomes. With that in mind, it's important to really dissect the spring drilling window to get a better understanding of the potential results we're dealing with. 

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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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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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The route to recovery

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Over recent weeks, from growers to advisors, we have all been doing our very best when it comes to taking an optimistic view when it comes to crossing our fingers for improving weather conditions. Each break in the rain was seen as a chink of light in what has been otherwise a torrid autumn when it comes to harvesting and planting progress.

All said and done it is clear now what we are faced with - crops of maize, beet and potatoes still in the ground; farmland flooded or at best waterlogged and a significant area of land previously allocated to autumn sown crops still unplanted. 

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What value can MySOYL bring to your farm business?

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In my role as MySOYL Business Lead, I regularly talk to customers who are looking to find new technology to make their farms more efficient and profitable. In these conversations, one of the most common questions I get asked is " What is MySOYL and how can it help me ?" For those of you wondering the same, I thought I'd use this blog to answer this...
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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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Get a better view of your farm

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Using satellites to get a different perspective of your farm really can open up a wealth of opportunities. Of course, we all know that satellite imagery isn't a new thing – people have been using it to take images of crops since 1995. However, the accuracy, resolution, frequency and our overall understanding of the technology has drastically improv...
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Removing straw: calculating the cost of replacing lost nutrients

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Last harvest, the prolonged hot weather greatly affected grass growth across the UK and caused a shortage of silage for many livestock farmers. To help meet demand, the majority of growers were baling their straw after harvest but, as explained in my blog at the time , this led to many questions about the impact on nutrient off take.  This yea...
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Meet the team at various events this year

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In my role, I often get asked which events we'll be attending and where customers can catch up with us over the coming months. Our local SOYL colleagues regularly attend and host events up and down the country, sharing expertise and helping customers to make the most of every hectare. Events are a key element of our agricultural calendar and someth...
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Working more efficiently in the field

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I spend a lot of time with farmers and agronomists talking about how they can be more efficient with their time. One of the ways they can achieve this is through capturing observations in the field, using digital tools such as the MyRecs app within MyFarm or the iSOYL Scout app. Recording black-grass and locating the actual affected area using GPS,...
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