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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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

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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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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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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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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

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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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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'

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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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Economic and yield returns: The results of SOYL’s variable rate nitrogen trials in 2020

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At SOYL, we have been running an extensive precision farming research and development programme for nearly 30 years. The work is central to the value of our technology and services, and today we now possess one of the largest trial databases in the world. A significant part of this work involves trials to compare our variable rate application approach against flat rate applications.

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How will variable rate nitrogen affect my sulphur applications?

Variable rate nitrogen

It's one of the first questions we face from growers when discussing variable rate nitrogen (VRN) and it's understandable given sulphur is one of the major nutrients required by plants. If optimum amounts aren't available, it will have a direct impact on end yield.

As it happens, in nearly all of these conversations our recommendation to growers is to apply sulphur variably alongside their nitrogen in order to achieve optimum yields and quality. Of course, as with all nutritional decisions, some forward planning is required.

With this in mind, we're going to address some common questions to help you plan for the spring and ensure you get the maximum benefits from variably applying sulphur.

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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

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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

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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

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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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