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Category Archive: Agrii West Spring 2013

  1. AgriiFocus Update

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    Dr Syed Shah – AgriiFocus R&D Manager

    We have set ourselves the challenge to achieve 15t/ha of wheat and the AgriiFocus site, our Western Technology Centre near Swindon, is where we are carrying out trials to examine the factors to achieve this. Saying that in harvest 2010 and 2011 we did achieve this in a number of our plots but 2012 was a very challenging season and like many farmers the average yield in our variety trial was down by over 30%.

    Not surprisingly the response to treatment in this trial was up from 1.1 and 3.0t/ha in previous years to 4.5t/ha. As well as high disease pressure, low light levels had a big impact and meant that increasing nitrogen rate did not increase yield and in many cases gave a yield reduction as the plant had to maintain a larger biomass. All in all hopefully an exceptional year but saying that, we still learned a lot for the work on the site, particularly from fungicide trials.

    Like farmers, it has been a challenge to get all the seed required and then to get suitable field conditions to get the AgriiFocus site drilled. However we have succeeded with the winter barley and winter wheat being drilled on 30/31st October.

    For winter oilseed rape we have drilled replicated trials looking at different establishment systems using Vaderstad, Opico and Simba drills. We also have for the first time drilled a number of small plot replicated OSR trials with drilling dates ranging from early to mid September.

    Nitrogen management along with other early nutrition and PGR inputs will be crucial this spring to help set up a good yield potential. Developing and maintaining tillers will be key and this will be examined within our WW nitrogen trial including different product options.

    Hopefully drilling dates will be much earlier in the autumn, which may make the data from some of this year’s trials less relevant. However if we are put in the same position, the work will be extremely useful in guiding us to the best approaches as previous later drilled trials has done this season. Given Blackgrass pressure and declining effective chemical options, later drilling may become a more frequent occurrence by necessity so again the work this year will be very relevant.

    We look forward to seeing you at one of our open days.

    Agrii West Events 2013 – Dates for your diary

    • 1st March – Bridgend R&D site event
    • 6th March – Brackley R&D site event
    • 7th March – AgriiFocus Spring event
    • 1st May – AgriiFocus Oilseed Rape event
    • 2nd May – Brackley Oilseed Rape event
    • 30th May – AgriiFocus Barley event
    • 18th June – Brackley R&D site event
    • 4th July – AgriiFocus Main Open Day
    • 10th July – Cotswold R&D site event
    • 20th June – Wilton R&D Site Event

    Agrii’s demonstration sites offer farmers the opportunity to experience the very latest R&D and allow us to join up agri-science with practical agronomy, enabling our customers to constantly improve yields, grow profitable crops and respond to ‘The Food Challenge’.

    For more information on these events please speak to your Agrii agronomist, alternatively you can contact Immy Pickford on 07590 963013 or

  2. Information Overload – It’s Decisions That Count

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    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.

    To learn more about Agrii’s Decision Support Services please consult your agronomist or the contacts below.

    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.

    • Accurate local meteorological data
    • Extensive network covering the UK
    • Early warning of pests
    • Disease forecasting
    • Improved crop protection
    • Adherence to farm assurance requirements

    Contact: Neil Obbard
    Tel: 07885 252418

    SoilQuest Precision Agronomy System

    By combining precision farming data with the expert knowledge of our agronomists, our SoilQuest services can be tailored specifically to your business.

    • Detailed nutrient maps are produced
    • Combine precision data and agronomy knowledge
    • Clear understanding of your soils variation
    • Target your inputs where they are required
    • Management zones that can be used all year round

    Contact: John Lord
    Tel: 07918 054765

    Soil Moisture Monitoring

    Soil Moisture Monitoring can provide multi-depth soil moisture information which can be linked to soil management zones, enabling more efficient use of water and help optimise yield on your farm.

    • Real time information linked to soil management zones
    • Multi-layer moisture graphs, and agronomical lines
    • Finger tip access to soil moisture data 24/7
    • Network link with weather stations for improved decision support

    Contact: Nick Winmill
    Tel: 07798 893755

  3. Agrii R&D insight – Soil Management For Blackgrass Control

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    David Langton – Crop Nutrition Technical Manager

    Agrii technical manager, David Langton warns 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 our long-term system trials on fields with serious multiple herbicide resistance near Huntingdon, he highlights 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. Ploughing after direct drilling wheat the year before, for instance, resulted in an average of just 6 black-grass plants/m2 in our OSR compared to 123 plants/m2 from ploughing after ploughing.”

    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 blackgrass, 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 we really need to know our weed,” David concludes. “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.

  4. Farm Saved Seed – a positive alternative to Certified Seed

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    Hugh Boswell – Farm Saved Seed Sales Co-ordinator

    Cropping plans on many farms have changed dramatically this spring and this in turn has led to supply challenges with preferred varieties of cereals or pulses as Certified Seed. For those who still have spring seed which has not been sold or committed, farm saving seed could be a positive alternative to Certified Seed and a sure way of having seed on farm when you are able to drill.

    Choice of spring crops for saving and drilling, if available to your farm business, could be spring varieties of Barley, Wheat and Oats, together with 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 it is essential to conduct a stem nematode test first before continuing with other bean tests. You can request sample bags and type of test required via your usual Agrii contact, who can also 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 our 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.

  5. Pull it up or leave it alone?

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    Barry Barker – Arable Seed Product Manager

    Many agronomists and growers will be making a judgment over the viability of their oilseed rape crops in early February, prior to the first application of Nitrogen.

    Philip Marr, Agrii Oilseed Rape Specialist notes that 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” advises Philip, “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 emerge 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. So despite a fair quantity of imported seed being acquired, 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.

  6. Local Agronomy Outlook

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    Our R&D site coordinators take stock in their area

    Brackley report from David McCullagh

    Our locality had probably had the wettest autumn on record with 439mm falling between August 1st and December 31st. Many crops of wheat and rape are struggling to survive multiple slug attacks and the effect of water logging. But we should remind ourselves of what has gone before. At Stow Longa photo A shows the position in October 2008 and in photo B the situation in April 2009 delivering a final yield to 2.5 tonnes per ha.

    Whilst not record breaking the actual margin generated would compare with a crop of spring barley which would have to bear the costs of seed etc that had been foregone in the establishment of the rape. Added to this would be the on-cost of not providing a first wheat entry for the 2014 crop. Where there are enough plants but the plant is backward there will be a need to get Nitrogen on in good time, at 40kg per ha for wheat and 80kg for rape and also the use of growth promoters such as Nutri-Phite PGA. If the option is to go for a spring crop, then where the ground has suffered structural damage, consideration will be given to the potential harvest date of the crop and the financial contribution that it could make. Picking an early-to harvest crop such as peas or spring barley will leave time to work the ground to help regain some structure. With the later crops of linseed, beans or spring rape this might prove more of challenging.

    In terms of out and out profitability then beans are in strong position followed by spring wheat and peas. Spring barley will always carry a low risk and for some provide the straw that may be needed elsewhere on the farm. While the malting premiums are likely to be eroded the underlying price is still strong. Added to this when compared with peas, is that the seed bed would not be as demanding compared with peas. Linseed and rape conclude the options but may not contribute as well financially. In all instances once the decision has been taken to spring crop then it will be important to set the ground up as well as possible by getting it ploughed early to enable whatever frost weathering may be possible. Then patience will be needed to wait for the right conditions to drill rather than risk mauling it in.

    Cotswold report from Oliver Fairweather

    The Cotswolds crops have suffered as much as anywhere with the weather. Winter Oilseed rape crops went in late on the most part due to a delayed harvest and a large proportion are struggling. Winter cereal crops largely went in late and are behind with many still to drill.

      • Managing these crops closely will be key in order to achieve a successful harvest.
      • Applying early Nitrogen must be prioritised this year with backwards and later drilled crops first on the list.
      • Plants will need providing with trace elements due to poor root structures and cold soils limiting uptake.
      • Consider applying aphicides at the first opportunity if you haven’t already, as we have not had the aphid kill this year, and any deter treatments will have run out of steam. Apply with any outstanding residual or Atlantis type mixes.

    Finally, it will be key to get on top of weed and disease control early. These crops need as little competition as possible this year. A good fungicide programme will be essential to yield, because we need to maintain green leaf area and there will be less leaf on these plants this year and smaller plants will also lead to a quicker disease spread.

    Salisbury report from Thomas Goodman

    Fortunately the light soils of the Salisbury area have been more forgiving than most, with only the heaviest ground destined for winter cropping remaining undrilled. Although drilled, many crops went in late and in less than ideal conditions; these backward crops will be the focus of our attention over the next couple of weeks.

    With breaks in the weather many will be keen to get on, with the list of jobs beginning to rise; rolling, weed control, fertiliser, spring crop seedbed preparation and early plant growth control, the challenge is which to prioritise?

    Many winter wheat seedbeds were left unrolled after drilling, this can reduce soil to root contact limiting nutrient uptake efficiency, especially those on the lightest of land. If conditions allow a good ring roll will be beneficial to crops drilled in after the plough and those on very light, puffy, chalk soils where frost heave may have been an issue. Not to mention hiding some troublesome ‘Wiltshire diamonds’ from the combine.

    With thin open crops good weed control will be paramount in order to prevent competition for light and nutrients. Although weed growth to date has been slow, we should expect to see flushes as soil temperatures begin to rise.

    The cold, anaerobic conditions of our soils have reduced nitrification of organic nitrogen to a more plant available state. Already crops are beginning to look nitrogen hungry, with a yellow tinge emerging on the lightest ground. Consider early nitrogen to reduce stress and encourage tiller survival before stem extension. As well as nutrition from the bag also consider foliar applied trace elements, plant stimulants and plant growth regulators. To encourage root growth and help maintain tiller numbers.

  7. Looking forward in 2013

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    Robert Baker – Business Development Manager

    Our technical team have spent the winter months trawling our R&D database and constructing an innovative technology portfolio to ensure the local Agrii agronomy team are fully equipped to support customers with the complex decisions that face us with the range of crops we have across the region. This is the sort of year when experience and replicated trials data will prove their worth and in Agrii, we are leaving no stone unturned in order to provide you with the best solutions this spring.

    We hope to see you at our spring and summer events where we can discuss management options as crops develop through the season. This includes the opportunity to follow our Best of British 15t/Ha Wheat Challenge, where we are combining a range of innovative management techniques to push crop potential to new levels. Dates of forthcoming events are shown on page 5.

    Best wishes for the season ahead from the Agrii West Team.

  8. Getting to Grips with Early Wheat Management

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    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.