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Category Archive: Agrii East Spring 2014

  1. Testing new apple and pear varieties

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    Colin Bird – Fruit Technical Advisor

    New varieties in the UK fruit industry are slow to come through. Of the approximately 2000 grown varieties, perhaps only 10 are of commercial significance to the main commercial growers, with Gala, Cox and Bramley holding up the majority share of the apple varieties with Conference dominating the pear market. Apart from Gala, all these varieties are over 100 years old – Gala is a mere youngster at nearly 80 years old.

    Newer varieties are adopted if they meet consumer acceptance. They have to be able to store and progress through the modern marketing regimes. Anything with a short shelf life or limited availability is unlikely to meet with the multiple retailer’s requirements.

    Recently ‘heritage’ or local varieties were resurrected to supplement the staple varieties. Most have, again, fallen by the wayside and are used by retailers as a stop gap measure if there is a short fall in the mainstream variety availability. A successful new variety, will almost certainly need to have global supply, aesthetic attractiveness, cross consumer flavour appeal and regular cropping potential. New club varieties offer a point of difference between retailers and marketing organisations and can provide growers with a commercial advantage over a standard offer.

    At the Agrii IFarm plot at East Malling we have begun to plant up an orchard with new varieties on offer from European nurserymen alongside standard varieties. This will allow us to compare the cropping ability, flavour and other traits of some new varieties to help identify the commercial potential of the new offerings. It is unlikely that previously tried varieties are going to be successful in the future.

    Currently we have five varieties of pear planted and 37 apple varieties or clones of varieties ( 5 of Gala, 2 of Braeburn and 2 of Cox ). We aim to plant more as they become available.

    Also we have planted 7 modern cider varieties as cider production is expanding quicker than any other tree fruit area in the UK.

    Having a multitude of varieties on one site will allow us to see the variance in maturity, distinctions between clones and also flavour testing fresh from the tree. Cropping potential will be evaluated on modern planting systems which growers will recognise and relate to, for their own farm inclusion. A lot is made of advice from the continent on tree management and with our own in-house expertise we hope to tease out the quirks and requirements of the varieties planted, not least the impact a martitime climate may impose as only the British can fully understand our weather! as well as moisture, light is such an important factor in tree management and we can now evaluate the new varieties from around the world, grown in our climate, on modern systems before our growers have to commit serious finance to new orchards and find out in year 5 that full crop cannot be achieved due to biennialism or find that light levels require a higher leaf to fruit ratio etc. The more diverse we are, the more knowledge can be accumulated for the benefit of the industry.

  2. Greater Precision in Soil Understanding

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    A more precise understanding of soils and their variation across every field is vital to make the most of the latest GPS-based farming technologies, believes precision agronomy specialist, John Lord.

    “Modern precision technologies enable us to automatically adjust a wide range of inputs to the surprisingly wide variations in soils across our fields,” pointed out the technical manager responsible for Agrii’s innovative range of precision agronomy services. “But without accurately mapping and appreciating these variations we simply cannot tailor our inputs to make the most of them.

    “We know from our long-standing SoilQuest experience that accurate soil maps produced from in-field scanning or satellite technology are far more valuable precision farming resources than those developed through either conventional whole field or grid-based soil sampling. Allied to precision sampling, they show us how the soil actually varies across the field rather than how either informed guesswork or computer predictions suggest it might.

    Our studies over the past two seasons underline the importance of moving beyond traditional manual to more precise laser soil texture analysis, to such an extent that we’ve made laser topsoil analysis standard across our advanced precision agronomy mapping services.”

    “Laser analysis allows us to characterise soil zones within a field accurately and consistently for their actual contents of sand, silt and clay particles for the greatest agronomic precision,”

    “Its value is clearly illustrated in one 22 ha field we’ve mapped using both methods of soil texturing with samples taken following SoilQuest conductivity scanning. Manual texturing divides the field into two soil types – clay and clay loam. But laser analysis shows it should actually be divided into between five and nine separate zones for the best management (Figure 1).

    “Zones within both the main soil type areas vary by a good 5% in their clay content. And the sand content varies by as much as 8% between zones that appear identical from manual texturing.

    “Relatively small differences in the particle size distribution of our soils can make big differences to their properties; and, in turn, to our best strategies for liming, nutrient application and sowing, not to mention cultivation, slug and weed control.

    “Once input plans are entered into GPS-linked variable rate sowing and application equipment it takes no more time or effort to manage five zones in a field than two. So it makes sense to use with as much precision as we can.

    “Knowing the precise sand, silt and clay contents of soils across our fields allows us to make the most of the precision input technologies. It also enables us to take the greatest advantage of new technologies for precision spraying and cultivation as they are developed.”

    Add real-time information from the company’s network of weather stations, data from its soil moisture probes and alerts from its increasingly sophisticated pest and disease prediction models and he sees precision farming moving up a major gear in the opportunities it offers. Importantly, it must all be built on the solid foundation of the most precise understanding of our basic resource – soil.

    “The world of soil understanding has moved on from ‘first generation’ field sampling in a simple W pattern and ‘second generation’ grid-based systems to the 3G of soil conductivity measurement. Laser texture analysis gives the extra precision to move us into the 4G world.”

  3. Grant Opportunity – Don’t miss out

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    The third round of the FFIS grant is available to apply for from 4 Feb – 4 April.  This grant, among other things gives 40% aid towards GPS equipment on tractors used for fertiliser application and is therefore a sort after aid. There are many other items that are included other than GPS, other key areas of interest in the last few years have been reservoirs, animal handling, sheep ID, water harvesting tanks and roofing, manure heaps and slurry stores.

    The main points have been summarised below:

    • Round 3 of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) launches on the 4 February 2014.
    • The selection process for FFIS is competitive.
    • The round will close on Friday 4 April 2014
    • Unlike previous rounds the RDPE will start processing applications as soon as they arrive. Therefore applicants are strongly advised to apply as soon as they can.
    • The maximum grant per business for FFIS Round 3 is £35,000 and the minimum grant is £2,500.
    • Applicants who have received grant funding in previous FFIS rounds are eligible to apply and can apply for the full £35,000. However, in the event that the round is oversubscribed, priority will be given to applicants that have not previously been awarded a grant.
    • Only items listed in the Applicant Handbook are eligible for funding and grant rates vary between 15% and 50% depending on the item and applicant location.

    There are 5 themes in FFIS:-

    • Nutrient management;
    • Energy efficiency;
    • Water management;
    • Animal health and welfare; and
    • Forestry

    Need help? Agrii Consultancy had a 90% success rate in the East in the last round with the applications we did for our customers so please get in touch for advice.

    If you are interested in knowing more about this grant opportunity, please get in touch with Beth Metson on 07545 927 474 or

  4. Spring Crop Options

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    Barry Barker – Arable Seed Product Manager

    The wet start to January will have prevented growers from planting any late drilled winter wheat for much of the last month or so. For many this is has meant a confirmation of what land will be left to be drilled with spring crops. What options are there then?

    Although spring barley premiums are not as attractive as they may have been in some years, they are likely to be attractive enough to encourage a crop of at least the size we have seen in years prior to the 2013 harvest. Propino is likely to be the top selling variety followed by Tipple Concerto with newer varieties such as Odyssey and Sanette attracting some interest. On the feed barley front there are a lot of varieties that will are providing competitive yields. Waggon, for a long time the feed market leader, is now challenged by varieties such as Rhyncostar with its much better Rhynchosporium resistance.

    Millers have been positive about the qualities of Group 1 spring wheat Mulika but seem a bit more hesitant over the Group 2 and feed varieties. But there are yield advantages in varieties such as KWS Alderon, KWS Willow and Tybalt that make them a reasonable consideration.

    The spring oat market does look fairly depressed at the moment with some pretty poor prices for conventional oats and some millers declining to take in further crops of spring oats at the moment. However, one alternative is naked oats. Lower yields but a very strong demand means contract prices are well in excess of wheat prices as opposed to a discount for the conventional oat crop. Buy-back details are available via your local agronomist.

    Spring rape and linseed are likely to be back to more normal plantings. A new hybrid spring rape variety, Doktrin, is available this year alongside proven varieties such as the earlier maturing hybrid Belinda and the conventional, Heros. All spring rape seed sold by Agrii will have passed the Master Seeds Vigour Test. Linseed tends to fluctuate with the grain prices, and with a lot of crops the highest yielding varieties such as Juliet tend to have the later maturity. Earlier varieties such as GK Emma are a reasonable option where the most important aspect is the date of harvest rather than yield.

    There are new varieties coming through on spring beans. But it is likely that well established varieties such as Fuego and Fury will take the lion’s share of the market. Peas on the other hand may be the one spring crop where seed could be tight. The crop has been at pretty low levels for a few years now but there are good premiums to be had and with newer varieties such as Daytona coming through with good colour retention then the prospect of achieving those premiums is high. Human consumption contracts are also available for varieties such Sakura and Kabuki and should be considered.

  5. iFarm event previews

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    Stow Longa iFarm Preview

    This year the Stow Longa spring iFarm event will be held on Thursday 20th March.

    The meeting will begin with a plot tour on site to observe the latest blackgrass experiment which looks at cultivation, cover crops and mustard in the battle against blackgrass. We will then head to a local venue for sit down discussions on a number of subjects including an OSR update from Philip Marr and a grain market review from David Neale. The meeting will be followed by lunch for all attendees.

    Please speak to your Agrii agronomist if you are interested in attending. We look forward to seeing you on the 20th.

    Kent iFarm preview

    This year we will be holding a spring iFarm event in Lenham, Kent on Friday 7th March 2014.

    We will begin the meeting with a tour in the fields (weather permitting!) lead by Colin Lloyd who will be looking at and discussing the trial plots and agronomy. As well as the plot tours, we will also be discussing all things nutrition as David Langton talks through a range of subjects including canopy management in OSR/wheat and the importance of sulphur. In addition, there will also be a ‘spreading risk map clinic’ for farmers where you will be able to bring in your own maps for consultation.

    If you would like to attend, please speak to your Agrii agronomist. Please be sure to wear outdoor clothing and boots!

    You can view all upcoming iFarm events in your region here

  6. Living Without Neonicotinoids

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    Will Foss – Regional Technical Advisor

    In spring 2013 the European Commission decided to ban the use of the neonicotinoid insecticide active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam for seed treatment, soil application and foliar treatment on those plants and crops attractive to bees. The period of the ban started on 1st December 2013 and is due to run for 2 years during which time it will be reviewed. Neonicotinoid seed treatments have been an extremely useful part of integrated agronomy, providing targeted use of relatively small amounts of active ingredient helping to protect seedlings and young plants from insect pests. Note that Deter can continue to be used on cereals in the autumn I.e. must be drilled by 31st December.

    In the absence of neonicotinoid seed treatments a number of issues will need managing by adapting agronomic practices to deal with common pests in oilseed rape and linseed crops.

    Select the right variety and drilling date – go for good early vigour

    In the case of spring oilseed rape, delaying drilling until late March/ early April into favourable seedbeds with warm soil is the best defence against early flea beetle, so that the plant emerges and grows away quickly. The faster developing spring rapes, such as Dodger from Bayer and Docktrin from DSV, are ideal candidates for this early development.Choice of Winter Oilseed Rape varieties can help in the defence of the damage caused by Flea beetle and the prevention of TuYV spread. Generally the hybrid varieties are faster in their leaf development especially DK Expower and DK Excellium.

    Achieve good establishment

    Rapid emergence and early growth will be important for all crops to help them grow away from early pest pressure. Fine seedbeds and consolidation with the rolls will also help prevent flea beetle damage which can occur in loose seedbeds before the crop even emerges.

    Use TakeOff seed treatment

    This can improve rooting and crop establishment, helping the “germinative vigour” mentioned above. This is true for both Oilseed rape and Linseed and the cost/ha in these crops is minimal, making it a very useful component of the overall strategy.

    Consider increasing seed rates

    In high risk locations / situations this should be considered to allow for a percentage loss due to early pest attack, especially in spring crops which have less opportunity to compensate compared to winter crops.

    Seedbed nutrition

    Agrii trials are assessing comparative starter and placement fertiliser products in WOSR in autumn 2013 and this will also be looked at in spring 2014 trials. Nitrogen and phosphate will be the most important nutrients for rapid establishment and early growth particularly in situations of comparatively low N & P availability.

    Apply foliar insecticides EARLY and monitor regularly

    Timeliness of insecticide applications is essential – crops can disappear very rapidly. In spring OSR there are a number of approved pyrethroids (for early flea beetle control) plus non-pyrethroid options (targeted mainly at pollen beetle). Timing for flea beetle will need to be early (i.e. as soon as the crop just starts to emerge) and repeat applications should be planned whilst pest pressure remains. Once Oilseed rape gets to the 4 leaf stage the plants are more tolerant of damage.

    Managing without neonicotinoids will not be easy. It is important to seek the advice of a qualified agronomist who has access to the latest agri-intelligence and to pay careful attention to product labels for details on maximum total dosage and number of applications.