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Category Archive: West

  1. Nutrition trials deliver significant benefits

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    Dr Syed Shah – R&D Manager

    This year field and weather conditions have been much better than last year and we have managed to drill all our trials at the AgriiFocus site near Swindon. Currently we are looking at the effect of sowing date, seed rate, fungicide, different types of nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser and trace elements on yield and quality of winter oilseed rape, winter wheat and winter barley. All the trials at the AgriiFocus site have established well and have received their pre and post emergence herbicide, insecticide and fungicide treatments (where applicable).

    The 2013 harvest data has been analysed and will be presented in the forthcoming farmer meetings. The trials results have shown that there were significant differences amongst winter wheat varieties under the challenging conditions in autumn 2012 and the varieties Dickens, Crusoe, Gallant, Sky-fall and Solace had better establishment and plant survival than the other varieties investigated in the trial. This tends to suggest that we should be focusing on identifying the varieties which can perform well in a wide range of weather conditions. This is one of the reasons we have increased the number of varieties in our variety trials in which we are comparing 103 varieties of winter oilseed rape, 89 varieties of winter wheat and 59 varieties of winter barley in terms of crop growth, development, establishment, susceptibility to diseases, lodging risk, yield and quality.

    Crop nutrition plays a crucial role in crop establishment and plant survival, particularly during adverse weather conditions. The main objective of the early nutrition is to enhance crop establishment by improving root growth. A bigger and deeper root system allows the plant to access available nutrients in the soil. It can also reduce lodging risk and makes water accessible during drought conditions.

    In one of the trials at AgriiFocus, we investigated the effects of different treatments on crop establishment of winter oilseed rape. Data analysis showed that NutriPhite PGA and Quark had a very positive effect on crop establishment and green area index (GAI) which was 30% higher than the untreated plots, measured in terms of normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). However, the positive effects of the treatment were not translated into yield. This may have been due to increased demand for other nutrients which were probably yield limiting factors. Currently we are investigating the effects of a range of trace elements on yield of winter oilseed rape treated with Take-Off seed treatment. As shown in the Fig 1, the plots treated with Take-Off had more plants/sq m and higher GAI, measured in terms of NDVI. Although the Take-Off has created a yield potential, the challenge is to treat this crop appropriately to achieve higher yields.

    Trace elements also had a significantly positive effect on grain yield of winter wheat over the last two years (Fig 2 and 3). These yield benefits were partly attributed to increased green leaf retention (Fig 1). It has been well documented that trace elements such as copper, zinc and boron have a significant effect on the photosynthetic efficiency and translocation of assimilates towards the ear, which in turn improves ear fertility, grains per ear and average grain weight. The improved translocation of assimilates may have resulted in the higher yield in our trials. We have many more interesting results to share with you and I would like to invite you to come to one of the AgriiFocus events in which these results will be presented.


    Fig 2 Effect of trace elements on grain yield of winter wheat varieties at AgriiFocus 2012


    Fig 3 : Effect of trace elements on grain yield of winter wheat varieties at AgriiFocus 2013


    Fig 4: Effect of trace element on green tissue retention

  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.

    Figure 1: Soil Texturing following SoilQuest Scanning

    “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

    If you are interested in knowing more about this grant opportunity, please get in touch with Simon Rollinson on 07768 865084 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. Event Update Previews

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    Salisbury iFarm update – Thomas Goodman

    What a difference a year makes, favourable weather conditions and warm soils have allowed for good early establishment. At the Salisbury iFarm site, 16 different OSR variety strips were in the ground by 22nd August and 21 Winter wheat varieties were drilled by 30th September – emerging some 7-10 days later.

    As well as OSR variety demos we also have a nutrition trial specifically targeting the unique challenges that growing on light chalk soils presents, with particular focus on the requirement of nitrogen, sulphur and potassium for achieving high yielding crops. Our work will explore not only fulfilling the output demand on these nutrients but also the peak uptake demand and availability of nutrients in our calcareous soils.

    Along with the winter wheat variety demos we will also be trialling the effects of nitrogen/ fungicide interactions and continuing with our work targeting 15 tonnes to the hectare under Agrii’s Best of British Wheat initiative.

    Stafford iFarm update – Ross Dilks

    At the Stafford iFarm this year, we are trialling varieties of first & second winter wheats as well as winter oilseed rape. Also new this year we will also have spring barley and spring beans.

    Working closely with Philip Marr we are trialling a 7 t/ha oilseed rape challenge, and are taking nutrition very seriously – utilising tissue analysis and pushing the rooting ability of the plant.

    Working closely with Philip Marr we are trialling a 7 t/ha oilseed rape challenge, and are taking nutrition very seriously – utilising tissue analysis and pushing the rooting ability of the plant. Come and find out more at our Stafford iFarm event on 19th March.

    AgriiFocus Spring Agronomy Event 2014

    Thursday 27 February, 10am – 3.30pm

    The AgriiFocus Spring Agronomy Event near Swindon will include indoor presentations on key local and national trials results, covering disease management, varieties, nutrition including milling wheat data, and an update on CAP reform, plus much more… After lunch an afternoon trials tour in groups will include talks on varieties, nutrition, environmental plots, and canopy management and fungicides, by specialists within Agrii.

    Prior registration is required. Please contact your usual Agrii contact or email, and include your name, business name, address, main Agrii contact and mobile number.

  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.

  7. AgriiFocus research Update

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    Dr Syed Shah – AgriiFocus R&D Manager

    Getting the AgriiFocus site drilled last autumn was a big challenge, as, like most farmers, we found it difficult to achieve good field conditions. Our main priority was to do everything to maintain plant survival, to encourage rooting and to maximise crop canopies.

    The application of CCC-based PGR, Nutriphite PGA and trace elements (Cu, Zn, Mn, B) probably helped the wheat crop to produce good yields even in a very difficult year. The benefits of Nutriphite PGA and Quark treatments were clearly visible in the winter oilseed rape and the crop looked healthier, brighter and had a higher green area index than the crop in the untreated plots.

    The data and results from this and other nutrition trials will be presented in the forthcoming farmer meetings at the AgriiFocus site. This year field and weather conditions have been much better. We are comparing the yields and quality of 103 varieties of winter oilseed rape, 89 varieties of winter wheat and 59 varieties of winter barley at the AgriiFocus site; Agrii’s Technology Centre in the Western Region. Under investigation are the effects of sowing date, seed rate, foliar nutrition and different types of phosphate and nitrogen fertiliser on crop quality and yield. In addition we are investigating the effect of different cultivation systems, seed rates and herbicide treatments on the control of Black-grass. The black-grass trials are located on different farms so if you want to visit these trials please talk to your agronomist.

    We look forward to seeing you at one of our AgriiFocus events this season.

  8. Variations on a theme of Strip Tillage

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    Carl Flint – Agronomist

    As we know, half the battle with winter rape is successful establishment. To get as much field work done in the time available, drill and cultivation engineers are continuing to focus some of their efforts on single pass ‘strip’ drills to produce a good tilth and seed bed for oilseed rape seed, where less soil is cultivated and less horse power is required per metre of working width.

    Currently we are investigating a number of such drills at the AgriiFocus site. Strip tillage, cultivating a narrow strip of soil to produce a tilth and leaving undisturbed stubble between the ripping tines, is widely used in the States. Can it be adapted to provide a system for rape establishment suitable for our conditions? We are having an exploratory look.

    Establishing winter rape in wider rows gives us the possibility of using an interrow shrouded hood sprayer to target glyphosate in a controlled manner between the rows and at the same time use conventional oilseed rape chemistry in the row. We are examining the Micron Sprayer system on the site this year to assess the practicality of the setup and its crop safety.

    We look forward to seeing you at one of our open days – please contact your local Agrii contact.

    A selection of machinery

  9. New Precision Options from SoilQuest

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    SoilQuest is Agrii’s Precision Agronomy System, providing agronomists, farmers and growers with accurate information about their soils on which to base profitable decisions.

    Currently working with a significant numbers of our customers across the West, SoilQuest uses Veris scanning and detailed analysis to produce soil maps and management zones within fields, which when integrated with variable rate equipment can apply inputs in a much more targeted and cost effective way.

    Agrii’s SoilQuest service offers three options to gather data and provide advice, allowing us match your specific requirements.


  10. Non-compliance still costing farmers

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    Failures of cross compliance inspections in 2012 have recently been published by the RPA (  The results show poor record keeping was the major factor in cross compliance breaches costing farmers £1.4 million in reductions to their Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Changes have been made to cross compliance rules in the past year, primarily around NVZ regulations, no spread zones and cattle ID rules.

    The Good News

    The figures show a slight reduction in the total number of failures from 2,046 in 2011 to 1,947 last year.

    Animal related SMRs still top failures

    The highest number of breaches (670) was among cattle keepers for failing to report deaths or movement of their animals. Problems were also shown with movements not being recorded in farm records.

    The Bad News

    The number of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) failings almost trebled in 2012, incomplete records being the main breach.  Additionally, the number of failings for not having or incorrectly completing a Soil Protection Review nearly doubled.  The majority of these failures received a minimum 5% SPS reduction, worth approximately £11/ha.

    Other areas where breaches have increased include obstructions on public rights of way (GAEC 8) and inappropriate cultivation and pesticide use in field boundary protection zones (GAEC 14).

    There were failures for the new GAEC 19 rules, no spread zones, these rules are particularly relevant for farmers outside NVZ designations but using organic manures.  For this failures were down to spreading organic manure without a risk map and storing muck far too close to watercourses.

    How Can We Help

    The average inspection fine for the key failures identified in this article sits between 3 – 5% of the SPS which is worth approximately £10/ha.

    Agrii have a dedicated team of environment and compliance specialists giving you advice and support alongside your Agrii contacts.  This team offers advice through a Farm Auditing Service.  This is an on farm health-check tailored to your farm business to assess and evaluate farm compliance and identify where SPS risks lie.

    If you are interested in knowing more about our auditing service, please get in touch with Paul Pickford on 07909 925413 or