Enhancing farm efficiency with variable rate nitrogen – What do the latest trials results tell us?

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The start of a new year is often when most of us traditionally think back to what has happened over the past 12 months before looking ahead at those to come.

Before Christmas, we published this news release announcing some exciting digital investments that have upgraded our variable rate nitrogen service for 2022. One of the most significant developments is the adoption of radar technology, meaning users can now access cloud-free imagery.

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Making the Sustainable Farming Incentive work for your farm: Crop production and environmental management don’t need to be competitive

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At the beginning of December the government released further detail on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and how the widescale roll-out to all growers will work in 2022.

Before we look further into the options available to growers later in the blog, it is worth emphasising from the start that the SFI offers a real opportunity for growers to align and unify their crop production goals with their environmental goals. We know that crop and food production are central to farm decision-making but, given what we've seen of the SFI so far, it appears it will be easier to farm in a way that offers environmental benefits while supporting sustainable crop production systems - and receive financial support for doing so.

So, what do we know about the Sustainable Farming Incentive?

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The important role of supplementary feeding

Claire-feeder

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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Value of nitrogen: the importance of well-informed decisions

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The word 'unprecedented' very accurately describes what has happened in the fertiliser world this year but even that doesn't seem enough to convey the exceptional rise in price and shortage of supply. In 25 years, I haven't seen anything like these price levels; to be honest I don't think I expected to see them in my working life and I still have a...
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Maize: Season review and post-harvest soil management with cover crops

Maize-landscape-view

Maize is a high-value crop with a number of uses and so it is not surprising to see that the planted area is increasing year on year. With harvest now complete, it's a good opportunity to think about the learnings from this season as well as any steps you can take to reduce overwinter soil erosion and nutrient loss following removal of the crop.

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Optimising beet yield if delaying lifting to increase sugars

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Right now, beet crops are looking good. We're seeing high plant stand and root weight and, on the whole, virus yellows appear to be even lower than predicted after the cold spring.

However, while a reduction in the number of usual sunshine hours didn't impact oilseed rape yields this season - possibly because the frosts helped with canopy management – it's reported that the sugar percentage in beet needs time to increase to ensure haulage of good, adjusted tonnage. 

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Basic to broad analysis: Putting everything under the microscope to push for better yield

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"We're on a journey". That's what I say to my crop production customers when they see me take yet another set of tissue samples from the same fields that we started tissue testing over five years ago.

Over the years, I've formed a true partnership approach with my customers when it comes to crop nutrition. In the early days, soil analysis consisted of only measuring the most basic components: pH, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. In addition, tissue analysis was taken sporadically here and there throughout the season.

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Preparing oilseed rape for harvest

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Harvest is just around the corner for oilseed rape and there are some final but important tasks required now that the crop has reached this point in its life cycle. Across the country, many oilseed rape crops have been looking well but this means that careful consideration is required when planning desiccation and necessary steps should be taken to safeguard crop potential.

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A role for catch and cover crops in soil management?

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In the second blog of this soil management series, we review how catch and cover crops can play an integral role in post-harvest soil management, including the options available and how their inclusion can support stewardship. The first blog in this series focussed on pre-harvest soil management and you can read it here.

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Develop your soil management plan pre-harvest

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​In the first blog of this soil management series, we're exploring why it's vital to start planning for soil management in autumn-drilled crops well in advance of planting; when the previous crop is still in the ground.

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The fourth major plant nutrient

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​The low levels of sulphur we see today are not a new problem. Rather, it is something we've been aware of for over 30 years; ever since the first sulphur-deficient oilseed rape crops were seen on very light soils. Over time, this deficiency has progressed and now impacts virtually all crops and soil types. By looking at the factors that influence sulphur availability, you can make informed decisions and opt for products that match your crops' sulphur demand. 

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Managing the volatility of the fertiliser markets: A look back at the fertiliser market in 2020

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The 2020-2021 growing season will be remembered by growers for many things: lockdown, online meetings, the unpredictable weather and volatility in both the grain and fertiliser markets.

The link between grain and fertiliser markets is a complex one. When grain prices are higher, it drives demand for fertiliser. In other words, food security creates demand. However, perhaps over this last year, it has been Covid-19 that has had the greatest impact of all on the high nitrogen values we've seen.

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Assessing the nitrogen requirements of milling wheat

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As my colleague, Edward Downing, explained in his blog about final nitrogen decisions for cereals, the wet autumn and winter has really thrown up some challenges.

After extensive rainfall early in the new year, we went into one of the coldest but driest spring seasons on record. Today though, I think we'd all agree that weather pattern has broken. May has, so far, been riddled with unsettled conditions – you might forgive some people for thinking we were actually in October.

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Final nitrogen decisions

Final nitrogen decisions

Since the rain has started to fall across the UK, I've had several people asking about the final nitrogen applications on a number of crops. Unsurprisingly, there's quite a lot to consider so we've put together a two-part blog series to help you address all of the key information.

In this first blog I've compiled some advice on final nitrogen decisions for the main arable crops, taking into account overall conditions we've seen this season and what they mean for final doses on oilseed rape, winter wheat and spring cereal crops.

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Spring blog series: Increase NUE to improve your farm efficiency rating

Liquid fertiliser

If a production system experiences losses, its efficiency is going to be reduced. Often this can lead to a reduction in output too and, if losses are severe enough, even an increase to overall running costs.

If we look at this in relation to our fertiliser programmes the risks are similar, so preventing any losses can lead to some real gains. For example, by reducing the CO2e/t of production you could improve your margins and simultaneously benefit the environment.

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Boosting spring crops with biostimulants

Spring barley

This blog is the second and final installment in our series looking at the value of biostimulants, including why a sequenced approach - such as that within our BioPlan nutrition programme - can prove beneficial when it comes to pushing crop performance. While our first blog covered the benefits and application guidance for winter crops, this one explores the opportunities for spring crops and includes some useful trials data.

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Flail mowing a perfectly good crop of oilseed rape 16 weeks after drilling it?

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Mowing down a perfectly good crop of oilseed rape in November seems very counterintuitive to most growers. Yet, early indications suggest that this method could reduce cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) pressure without using insecticides.

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Spring blog series: Are your fertiliser programmes still right?

Fertiliser programmes

With April quite literally around the corner and early nitrogen doses now applied, it's an opportune time to reflect on what's happened so far this season and factor in decisions for future applications. I believe it's always sensible to constantly question the fertiliser plans and programmes made earlier in the season and it's not to say they are wrong, it's to check they are still right!

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Maximising your winter crops' potential with biostimulants

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We are seeing an increased interest from growers when it comes to the use of advance micro-nutrition and biostimulants as part of their integrated approach to pushing crop performance. Given where we are in the season, we thought it would be useful to give an overview of biostimulants and their role in crop production – specifically how and when to use them. We'll also explain our BioPlan service and how taking a sequenced approach to applications can support overall performance and sustainability.

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Spring blog series: Time to carry out your 'crop MOTs'

Wheat

At this stage of the season, there is a lot to think about and plan on farm.

Of course, the priorities from one farm to the next will always differ depending on location, rotation, soil conditions and overall crop production strategies. With that in mind, we're compiling a spring blog series that covers some of the key considerations and activities for this time of year – a group of posts to help you carry out some 'crop MOTs' if you will. This first blog focuses on spring nutrition for cereals and oilseed rape, but we'll be covering other crops and considerations in the coming days. To be notified each time a new blog is published, you can subscribe here.

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