Welcome to Kings' November e-newsletter. This edition advises how to deal with the consequences of recent weather, highlights the importance of supplementary feeding, reviews recent open days at Rectory Farm and gives an update on green cover events.
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Kings southern technical advisor
Take care of crops affected by recent weather
Establishment of autumn sown wild bird seed mixtures and late sown green cover crops has been helped this month by a mixture of downpours and sunny days with mild temperatures. Some green cover crops have already been performing by capturing nutrients and helping to prevent run off and while others may not appear to have much top growth, they will have been working hard to improve soil structure by developing good rooting systems below the surface.
Crops established in late August or early September behind high yielding crops and after heavy rains have shown yellowing in some cases. This often indicates that the plant has caught all of the nitrogen available to it; if your crops are showing these symptoms, contact your local advisor to confirm the causes and next steps.
In other instances, early established crops have been able to capitalise on the rains and sunshine, resulting in phenomenal growth. Care should be taken to make sure crops don't flower and set seed, as this signifies that the crop has completed its life cycle and it will no longer provide the benefits it was sown for, such as capturing nutrients, soil conditioning and pulling up moisture. Depending on availability of equipment to deal with lignified matter and lock up nutrition in the crop residue for longer, like straw, this could cause issues with spring drilling, so again seek guidance to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Support birds with supplementary feeding
As the weather changes and the cold sets in, the natural food larder will be depleting and leaving farmland birds to rely on wild bird seed crops, game cover and supplementary feeding to survive the winter months. Though most crops have performed adequately, some have been hindered by inconsistent weather this season and so haven't produced the usual masses of feed, increasing the need for supplementary feeding even more.
If we are to make any real difference to the populations of song birds and wild game birds on farm, we need to make every effort to reduce winter mortalities. One of the best paid ways to do this in stewardship is with supplementary feeding. This entails feeding a mixture of cereals, OSR and specialist small seeds such as millet, to ensure a range of farmland birds can obtain sufficient nutrition to survive. It's important to take care when sourcing these small seeds though, to avoid bringing pest species such as amaranth and barnyard grass onto farm; seed grade should be used wherever possible to ensure a screening process has been applied to minimise risk.
This feed is then distributed on the ground and in feeders along hard tracks and margins, adjacent to appropriate farmland habitat and amongst wild bird seed plots. Depending on your stewardship agreement, this can take place between November and April. Some land managers have begun feeding already and Kings has been busy processing pre and full mixtures.
Speak to your local advisor or call Kings on 0800 587 9797 to discuss your seed needs and how supplementary feeding can fit in with your stewardship agreement.
Open day success
Last month was a busy one for Rectory Farm in Buckinghamshire, as over 60 growers and advisors attended two open days at the Purdey Award winning farm. By kind permission of enthusiastic hands on owner George Eaton, Kings gave two guided tours that allowed visitors to admire what George has achieved over the years for local, national and migrationary wildlife.
The two open days included presentations from industry experts. Peter Thompson of the GWCT and Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) talked on pollinators and Jonathan Reynolds, also of the GWCT, discussed modern predator control. Garry Marsh demonstrated how he uses the Kings demonstration plots to ring farmland birds and collect important data, with expert advice from the RSPB's Kirsty Brannan and views from George on the practicalities and importance of habitat provided through farming, conservation, shooting and stewardship.
It was great to see such a mix of people across the two days, with land managers, farmers and keepers attending the first day and industry advisors from the local Wildlife Trust, Natural England, RSPB, CFE and Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) on the second day.
Don't miss out on green cover events
As more and more growers become interested in green cover cropping, Kings has been busy at a number of events in England and Scotland this month. Working with CFE, CSF and local water companies, these events have focused on how green cover crops can positively impact on farms and the environment by reducing pollution through leaching, recycling nutrition and improving soil health. These benefits mean that using cover crops can ultimately lead to increased yields at a reduced cost to the farming business, not to mention helping to meet greening rules.
Events have included tours of cover crop plots as well as indoor presentations. At some venues, these have been trial sized while others have been on a field scale and some have even had both. The plots have evolved since last year's collaborative trials, from individual species to mixtures to suit a number of uses. The events have been well received so far, with over 85 attending the Kent date and 75 in Hampshire, for example.
A number of dates are already in the diary for December, from Fife in Scotland to Blandford in Dorset; visit Kings' events page to find more details and book your free place. Further events will be arranged in February to look at cover crops before they are destroyed and to consider the tissue sample data provided by lab tests which will evidence crop nutrient capture efficiency. Watch the events page, Kings' Twitter account and future newsletters for more details as they are confirmed.