In our industry we face many challenges and 2012 was no different. With adverse weather conditions causing no end of issues on farm, particularly towards the end of the year, we look forward to 2013 with a renewed sense of optimism.
At Agrii we strive to ensure our customers can face these challenges with confidence. With our continued investment in research and development, we are continually looking at new ways to utilise the latest techniques and technologies to help our customers get the most consistent returns – whatever the weather! With a busy few months of events coming up, I encourage you to come along to your local R&D site and take part in the discussion – tell us what you think and hear how other farmers and agronomists are managing crops this season.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2013 and thank you for your continued support of Agrii.
Comments Off on Information Overload – It’s Decisions That Count
Today’s world is brimming with information – whether you choose to get yours on-line, in-print or at a meeting, there’s a wealth of valuable data available to those who seek it out.
‘Information is King’ we hear, and without doubt it is vital component for any modern business seeking to succeed in a competitive market place.
However, information on its own is just information and these days it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available.
Identifying the facts that are relevant and using them to inform decisions that improve productivity needs to be the goal. This is why Agrii is making significant investment into our Decision Support Services – to ensure that our agronomists and customers not only have access to the best information, but are able to consistently translate that information into more profitable business decisions on farm.
Using information about soil structure to better utilize fertiliser inputs and providing accurate, local weather data to predict pest and disease problems are two examples of how Agrii Decision Support Services are working with growers to better inform management practices that lead to high performing crops.
Hush Heath Manor, led by Richard Balfour-Lynn and assisted by Estate Manager Stefan Turner, is a farm comprising of 240ha, some of which is used for the production of apples and wine grapes. During a recent expansion of the enterprise, the management team approached Agrii Agronomist Neil Obbard to examine ways to fine-tune the timing of pesticides and fertiliser in order to maximise the return on the farm’s input spend. Neil recommended the installation of a weather station to provide access to live meteorological feeds and pest and disease prediction data through the use of a range of various computer models.
With their new weather station installed, the farm now receives three emails a week that detail disease pressure (past and predictive) on a local scale and also highlight potential spraying windows in the coming days. This is backed by text message disease alerts and 24/7 mobile access to check current conditions; it all adds up to a very valuable weapon in the decision making process.
Not only has the weather station saved the farm money by modelling pest and disease pressures with the crops being grown, but it has also provided a platform for more accurate timing of inputs to maximise return on investment.
Weather Stations Network
Agrii Weather Stations collect and record weather data which is used to more accurately forecast pest and disease pressure, ensuring Agrii agronomists and customers have an extra weapon in effective crop protection.
Comments Off on Farm Saved Seed processing on farm – a positive alternative to Certified Seed
Farm Saved Seed is very well worth considering this spring – it’s an integral part of many farm businesses. 40% of all combinable crops are planted using Farm Processed Seed and at least 50% of farmers in the UK use a Farm Saved Seed service every year for a proportion of their seed.
For most farmers in the UK cropping plans for this spring have changed dramatically – many farmers are not able to access their preferred varieties of cereals or pulses as Certified Seed – the choice is limited. For those who still have spring seed which has not been sold or committed could benefit from farm saving their seed this Spring – it’s a positive alternative to Certified Seed and a sure way of having seed on farm when you are able to drill.
There will be many eleventh hour decisions about drilling late wheats and subsequently deciding on an alternative cropping strategy. Choice of spring crops for saving and drilling, if available to your farm business, could be Spring Barley, S Wheat and S Oats : Spring Beans, Linseed, Oilseed rape and Peas.
Before processing any farm seed it would be prudent, after such difficult growing and harvesting conditions, to take a sample to test for standard germination (8-10 days) or a tetrazolium viability and vigour test – the result of which could be emailed to you within 4 days. If S Beans are to be saved for seed its essential to ask for a stem nematode test first before continuing with other bean tests. Please ask for further advice from your agronomist or the Farm Saved Seed team on how to get the appropriate sample bags and type of test required. Agrii can advise on the most appropriate and cost effective seed treatment for this spring.
The Agrii Farm Saved Seed business processes over 30 thousand tonnes of seed a year via its nationwide fleet of 20 modern, high capacity, self contained mobile units. The machines are operated by qualified, experienced and motivated staff who can help you produce seed on farm to your specification. Farm saving is worth considering in conjunction with Certified Seed – the mobile service provides the same attention to detail and professionalism as our certified seed plants.
The statisticians have been advising us all about the fact that 2012 was for most the wettest year in their lifetime and for many one of the most difficult autumns for harvesting and getting the following crop established. So what many growers are faced with is either pretty bare looking fields due to poor establishment or completely bare because the land has just not been fit to drill.
Probably the most difficult crop to judge in these situations is oilseed rape. Philip Marr, Agrii’s oilseed rape specialist advises that most growers will be making a judgment over the viability of their oilseed rape crops in early February, prior to the first application of Nitrogen. “The plant population required for a hybrid can be in the order of 9-12 plants per square metre and evenly spaced and for a conventional variety from 12-18 plants, to attain a decent yield with a potential 3.5 to 4 tonnes/ha. It is crucial that these plants are well established and have a good root structure, even more so if crops have been ravished by pigeons and there has been a high loss of leaf material. The decision to pull the crop out at this time needs a lot of consideration!!!”
For some the decision has already been made and others will make it very soon. But if the decision is to keep rape in the rotation then it is better to leave drilling spring oilseed rape until the soil and air temperatures have picked up and the crop will emergence and grow away vigorously. This will probably be around late March.
Demand for spring rape seed has been high and a number of varieties have sold out particularly some hybrids. However, there should be stocks of the leading conventional varieties, like Heros, available to meet demand.
If the decision is not to grow spring rape then growers should be aware that stocks of all species are likely to be in short supply this spring. So despite a fair quantity of imported seed being purchased to help meet demand it is certain that variety choice will be limited and if a variety is unfamiliar to a grower then Agrii would strongly recommend that they ask for UK data to support its suitability for its growing in this country.
Comments Off on Focus on Soil Management for Black-Grass Control
Appropriate soil management can play a major part in controlling your black-grass before it controls you, growers and agronomists were advised at the latest national Soil & Water Management Centre improvement event in Lincolnshire.
Agrii technical manager, David Langton warned that a strictly limited chemical arsenal, growing weed resistance and increasing climatic uncertainty make it vital to manage soils and tillage as effectively as possible to minimise the pressure on in-crop herbicides.
Armed with latest results from the company’s long-term system trials on fields with serious multiple herbicide resistance near Huntingdon, he highlighted cultivation flexibility, multiple stale seedbeds and delayed drilling as particular opportunities for tackling problem fields.
“In our latest trials with Lemken, ploughing stood out as the best way of reducing black-grass in a single season, giving us nearly 100% control in our 2010/11 wheat through effective seed burial. Indeed, with 100 black-grass ears/m2 taking almost exactly 1t/ha off wheat yields, we recorded a net benefit of £100/ha over our shallow min till regimes after accounting for the extra £45/ha cost.
“It’s important to stress, though, that ploughing needs to consistently bury the seed below 3” in the profile. And ploughing two years in a row can lead to greater problems by bringing up non-dormant black-grass seed buried the previous year”
Where rotational ploughing is not a viable option, extensive studies at Agrii farm trial sites with particular grass weed problems show some reduced tillage regimes can be almost as effective in controlling black-grass, while generating higher margins over establishment and chemical costs; providing they are accompanied by effective stale seedbeds.
“If we are to rise to a black-grass challenge which is just as great for many today as it was before the advent of Atlantis, we really need to know our weed,” David Langton concluded. “As well as its resistance status, we should identify where it is both in the field and in the soil profile. That way we can utilise the tillage and other soil management tools at our disposal in the most cost-effective, integrated control approaches.”
Throws Farm Preview
This year the Throws Farm Spring Event will be held on Thursday 21st Feb. The meeting will feature interactive discussions around a number of topical subjects including late drilled crops and managing nitrogen inputs. We will also give you an update on our blackgrass establishment work at Stow Longa. Please speak to your agronomist if you would like to attend. We look forward to seeing you on the 21st.
Leadenham R&D Site Preview
The Leadenham Spring Event will be held at Glebe Farm on Wednesday 10th April 2013. This spring we shall be looking at how we can fulfil crop potential after such a difficult winter. We will also look at how we can make the most of spring cropping options as well as hearing the latest news and views on commodity markets. For any further information please contact your local agronomist. We look forward to seeing you there!
Comments Off on Fresh approach to fruit trials by Agrii
Agrii have recently announced a serious commitment to the UK fruit industry by setting up a long term demonstration and evaluation plot for fruit crops at East Malling. Fruit grower Giles Cannon and HDC Top Fruit Panel member, says “with research funding being so limited for fruit, it’s great that one of the leading companies in the agronomy and supply industry are investing in R&D.” The plans for the site are ambitious as apples, pears, cherries and soft fruit crops will be included. Agrii’s Fruit Technical Support Manager, Colin Bird, is enthusiastic about the possibilities this site offers and adds that the company will also be looking into planting novel crops like Apiums, Plucots, Asian Pears and any others that show promise for the UK market.
Colin Bird explains that, “East Malling was the logical place for an all encompassing fruit trial and demonstration plot. East Malling Research has had a central role in fruit research for many decades and is now the last research and development centre left for fruit growing in the UK. It has excellent facilities and we are pleased to forge a long term partnership with its sister company, East Malling Ltd, especially with farm manager Graham Caspell and his team.”
The aim of the site will be to replicate a commercially based orchard for top fruit, but with a difference. Cultural techniques will be evaluated to improve the understanding of many of the systems currently advised in the UK and to demonstrate any differences or benefits. The orchard will also be a platform for plant protection evaluation. Different clonal selections of the major apple varieties grown in the UK will be planted, creating on a single site, a one stop view of the differences of each selection. Additionally, both post and wire and single stake planting systems will be employed.
Alongside well established varieties, new or alternative varieties will also be planted, allowing growers to assess the characteristics and merits of each. This will allow growers to see new varieties planted in various situations with the intention of greatly reducing the guesswork normally associated with selecting suitable varieties. There is also an intriguing offer to plant ‘club varieties’ as a shop window for marketing groups to allow these to be viewed by a wider audience. This may not be possible in all cases but Agrii consider that this would be a benefit to the wider industry.
Colin rounds-up by explaining; “As the site develops, the aims and objectives will grow organically to encompass any interesting developments, we don’t wish to limit ourselves to the tried and tested but rather be prepared to explore new directions and opportunities. No need to re-invent any wheels, rather assemble everything good in our industry on one site as a focal point for education to the benefit of both Agrii staff and our grower customers.”
More depth than grower trials
This new initiative for fruit (the arable arm of Agrii already have their own demonstration farm) will be used alongside Agrii’s existing extensive trials programme which are based mainly on grower’s farms. Establishing a site under the control and direction of the fruit team at Agrii will allow the team to demonstrate current chemistry, new releases, bio pesticides and novel treatments. As fruit agronomist Kevin Workman says, “we only recommend treatments that we have proven knowledge of, so this site will help hone that knowledge further and will be a valuable teaching aid for us as well as our customers.”
Various treatments and programmes can be looked at from an unbiased viewpoint, offering the potential for multiple product programmes, not just those from a particular manufacturer, as is so often the case. Using the demonstration site at EMR, with plantings similar to commercial practice, will allow accurate application, monitoring and recording, delivering really usable data and a greater depth to the results. Agrii have already covered the £4k cost of provided the weather station used to monitor the Concept Pear orchard at East Malling and agronomist Neil Obbard, Agrii’s weather station manager, will be able to use this valuable data for trials on predictive modelling for the benefit of customers as part of the network of stations currently in place. He says , “we aim to help customers, via improving predictive pest and disease models, to only have to apply treatments for protection.”
It is likely that bio pesticides will play an ever increasingly important role in crop protection so being able to ‘road-test’ some of the more novel bio-pesticides in a real situation will give Agrii an insight to their usefulness and efficacy. Many of these types of product have tangible benefits but these sometimes get lost within anecdotal evidence of efficacy. Colin Bird points out, “Often demonstrating a product in a real situation is the only sure fire way to judge its usefulness; our own site will allow us to use products that we may not be fully comfortable with or unsure of, before using on our growers’ farms”.
Comments Off on Getting to Grips with Early Wheat Management
Effective early spring management will be the difference between success and failure for large areas of winter wheat across the country this season, believes Agrii research and development manager, Colin Lloyd. Management that is designed to address the special needs of late-drilled and late-developing crops under less-than-ideal soil conditions.
From our extensive Throws Farm-based research in previous difficult establishment seasons and under deliberately challenging trial regimes, he identifies three key management objectives – improving rooting, increasing tiller numbers and maximising tiller retention.
“We know sodden ground, difficult seedbeds and high seed rates add up to poor quality rooting, compromising both nutrient uptake and standing ability,” Colin points out. “Phosphate access will be particularly problematic in waterlogged soils.
“We also know crops drilled from late November struggle to tiller. And we know they find it harder to retain their tillers when spring and summer conditions get tough, but will do so with sufficient support.
“Thankfully, our R&D shows there’s much we can do to address these particular challenges through the right early season agronomy.
Your Agrii agronomist has access to this information and can support you with identifying the right management plan for your crops.
Backward Crop Priorities
Do everything possible to encourage and retain tillers by maximising rooting.
Apply early N and foliar P, S, Mn and Mg to make-up for soil access difficulties.
Employ enhanced PGRs with superior cold weather activity to improve rooting.
Target diseases which threaten rooting with morpholine-containing fungicides and
those with specific persistent mildew activity.
Protect lower leaf area and efficiency assiduously with robust early T0 applications.
Remove weeds as soon as practicable to restrict competition and allow free tillering.