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New Trials Demo Puts Spotlight on Local Varieties and Agronomy

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More than 100 farmers from Lincolnshire had an insight into varieties and agronomy practices suited to the Midlands when Hutchinsons recently hosted its Little Ponton Regional Technology Centre Open Day.

Hosted by kind invitation of Mr D Skelton, at Grange Farm, Little Ponton on 28th June, the event featured several agronomy demonstrations and cereals and OSR variety trials.

Seeds specialist David Bouch said the excellent turnout highlighted the strong appetite amongst farmers for more local variety and agronomy information.

Growers visit Hutchinsons Little Ponton trials site

“Crops grown in this region face very different challenges to those in the north or west, such as higher yellow and brown rust pressure, so it’s important to see how varieties perform under these conditions before making planting decisions.

Three wheats looked particularly promising in the Hutchinsons trials, with all offering good yield potential and strong disease scores.  These included Shabras, Gleam and LG Skyscraper (RL candidate variety).

With regards to spring barley’s David Howard, technical manager, urged growers not to give up on the crop if it was being grown for black-grass control, recognising that it has been a very difficult season. “Many spring crops went in late this year into poor conditions, so were not as competitive, but spring germinating black-grass is not as much of an issue going forward as seed set is much less than autumn germinating black-grass.”

“Continue with your plans and remember that for the barley crop to be competitive, seed rates must be appropriate, establishment conditions as good as possible and don’t forget nutrition.”

Chasing Yield

Learnings from the Yield Enhancement Network proved a big talking point, especially around how to set crops up from the start to fulfill their yield potential.

“The biggest correlation to achieving high yield has been found to be biomass,” explained David Howard. “It’s critical to set crops up from the start to have a big biomass if the yield potential of that crop is to be fulfilled.”

He pointed out that crops may not always reach that potential depending on the weather, but outlined how to aim for greater biomass, reducing that risk and variability as much as possible.

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“There are two ways of increasing yield either through increasing the number of grains/ear or increasing viable plant tillers.”

“The biological maximum number of wheat grains/ear is not known but it is unlikely that current varieties will be able to exceed 60 – 70 grains per ear and this is very weather dependent, so that makes it harder to manage. However, it is possible to influence tiller numbers by increasing seed rate - if you have more seed you’ll have more plants and more ears/ha- and this approach also reduces the variability,” he said.

“What is key however, is to understand what plant numbers you will get from that particular seed rate – so look at the establishment percentage for each field and soil type. Don’t take numbers from a book.”

Nutrition in Focus

Talking about crop nutrition, Rob Jewers, fertiliser specialist, shared the results of the Farmacy annual DTR tissue test results.

The key indications from the test results showed that UK crops were showing low levels of sulphur, potassium and magnesium.

“If sulphur levels are low, this affects the nitrogen: sulphur ratio in the plant and thereby impacts on efficiency of nitrogen use. Grain testing at harvest is particularly useful for diagnosis as it will indicate accurately if there is a deficiency developing.”

Potash was low in almost every sample tested – the quick growth in the spring meant that plants did not have enough time to take it up, he said. Mr Jewers recommended that early spring before stem extension was a good time for potash applications.

He added that Magnesium is often overlooked but actually it is needed in high quantities. “If sugar beet is grown in the rotation, this is a good opportunity to apply a fertiliser containing magnesium.”

Establishing OSR

For growers in the midlands region, establishing OSR can be challenging as dry soils, CSFB and slugs often play havoc with getting the crop up and away in the autumn.

Sally Morris, Farmacy agronomist, shared her top tips for dealing with this.

  • Don’t drill too deep. Keep drilling depth between 10—25mm depth – no more as if the seed is too deep it will run out of steam before it gets to the soil surface.
  • Aim for a soil aggregate size of a 5p pieces. A fine seedbed means there are fewer places for flea beetle to hide.
  • Where the threat from CSFB is really high, increase the seed rate.
  • For slug control, roll twice either early morning or late evening when the slugs are on the soil surface as this will squash them.
  • Phosphorus is very important for OSR establishment but uptake in dry soils can be challenging. Think about using a starter fertilser such as micro granular Primary P which makes the nutrients available as soon as germination starts.