Welcome to Kings' September e-newsletter. This edition provides a reminder on cover crop planting, explains how to benefit from your partridge count figures, gives a fungal infection warning, advises on how to get next season off to a great start and invites growers to an open day.
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Kings southern technical advisor
Still time to cash in on cover crops
Despite harvest having become a long, drawn out affair thanks to such unsettled weather, there is still time to get cover crops in the ground. Over the last two seasons, growers were able to establish some cover crops throughout October and even into November, proving that late sowing is possible when the conditions are right. Varieties such as turnip rape and rye are particularly flexible, with the potential to sow until the end of October and end of November respectively. Cover crops can be established for Ecological Focus Area (EFA) purposes up until 31st October, though their benefits are of great value outside of these criteria too. Varieties and seed rates may need adjusting to suit a later timing as well as location and soil type, so it’s important to take advice before going ahead to ensure the best chance of success. The agricultural pests that graze on cash crops can find some cover crops equally palatable, but this can be addressed with prevention or protection measures where needed.
Where late sown mixtures such as Kings Winter Cover Mix or Stubbles Mix are following the combine for game cover purposes, foliar feeds such as Algifol and Croplift can give a useful kick on. Depending on flea beetle pressures you may also need to consider a tank mix to combat the pest.
Make good use of partridge count figures
You will no doubt have submitted the figures from your grey partridge count to the GWCT by now, but be sure to use this data for your own benefits too. Using these numbers can help you to target habitat management, supplementary feeding and predator control to help the wild bird population on your land. Studies over the last five years have highlighted that our wild ground nesting birds have been struggling to find suitable habitats for nesting, brood rearing and over wintering to collectively support their broods from start to finish.
Areas that have produced broods but are lacking in habitat could be enhanced this autumn by establishing tussocky grass margins for nesting adults next door to an autumn sown wild bird seed mixture. While these wild bird seed mixtures won't produce a huge amount of cover for this winter, they will provide other benefits:
- A sanctuary against avian predation in the spring
- A mixture of seed and nectar, as well as allowing ground hugging flowering weeds like common speedwell and scarlet pimpernel to establish in the spring which will in turn help support pollinators and entice feed insects in to the crop; this will then help feed adults, chicks and juvenile birds throughout the spring, summer, autumn and winter
- Lasts 2-3 years depending on components
- Removes some spring time establishment pressure
- Meets stewardship and EFA criteria.
Monitor for maize infection
Fungal infections and eye spot in particular are appearing in maize crops across the country at this time of year. This could be due to the prolonged localised wet spells that many growers have experienced in recent weeks, or a result of carry over from last season’s crop if cultivations are on a min-till system.
Some crops will be too mature and it will do more harm than good to try and combat infection at this late stage, but for a late sown maize crop or a crop that has struggled due to climatic conditions, appropriate management could be the difference between success and failure. Take expert advice on the best path for your crop and remember that all spray recommendations must be provided by a BASIS qualified advisor.
Learn lessons for next season
Before the shoot season gets in to full swing, now is a good time to think back over this year’s game cover establishment and make notes on the successes and areas for improvement; having evaluated and written down what has and has not gone well will be valuable when it comes to planning for the next season. It would be useful to do the same for wild bird seed mixtures if possible, but combining and field work will be likely to take precedence over paperwork for the next few months. Weed burdens and crop nutrition are top priorities as these are two of the most talked about issues during the growing season, followed closely by pest populations and volatile weather patterns. Hopefully all your hard work through the spring and summer will now pay dividends; we wish you all a successful shoot season.
October open day at Purdey Award winning farm
Kings will be holding an open day at Rectory Farm in Buckinghamshire on 22nd October. The farm is a great example of how farming, sporting and conservation interests can be successfully integrated and was the joint Purdey Gold award winner last year. It has also been a Kings demonstration farm for five years and the Kings team works closely with owner George Eaton to ensure he gets the best out of the land.
The open day will include a tour of the farm and a range of expert speakers. For more details and to book your free place, call us on 0800 587 9797 or visit our events page.