Welcome to Kings' June e-newsletter. This edition updates on recent legislation changes, encourages growers to look after young crops, emphasises the need for adequate nutrition, advises on late drilling, invites readers to visit local events, highlights the success of one Warwickshire grower’s stewardship efforts and introduces northern technical advisor, Clive Wood.
To stay up to date with the latest news from the field, keep in touch with the Kings advisory team and find out what other growers are up to in tweets like those below, follow Kings on Twitter.
Ecological Focus Area legislation update
The European parliament has now voted in favour of a complete ban on all pesticides being applied to Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). This covers nitrogen fixing crops, fallow land and catch and cover crops and will likely come into effect from 1st January 2018. Clarification is still being sought on whether this also includes seed treatments for mixtures sown within EFA land.
This could have considerable impact on which crops are grown going forward.Defra has highlighted that the area allocated to growing leguminous crops, namely peas and beans, has increased by 89% since the introduction of the Greening element within the Basic Payment Scheme. However, this ban on use of any pesticide on these crops from the point of drilling through to harvest will undoubtedly make growing such crops untenable.
Many growers who relied on nitrogen fixing crops to meet their EFA requirements will now need to carefully consider how to meet these new rules. Focus on what you wish to achieve from your EFAs.
Catch and cover crops will be at the forefront of many minds as a good option going forward. With much ongoing research and development into particular varieties offering opportunities to help tackle soil borne pests, feed beneficial biota, improve soil structure, capture nutrients and fix nitrogen, the Greening proposals could have some long term positives.
It should also be noted that those with a new Countryside Stewardship agreement or those looking to go into the scheme in 2018 may now face some added complications with regard to double funding or finding extra areas to meet the requirements of both schemes.
Pay attention to emerging crops
After some much needed moisture earlier this month and the more recent sunshine, wild bird seed and game cover crops should be pushing on nicely. To achieve their potential, however, they need to be taken care of beyond establishment.
Brassica crops will be vulnerable to cabbage stem flea beetle until they reach true leaf stage. Having a protection plan in place is imperative to get the crop away successfully. Whole fields of OSR were lost to flea beetle in the south of England last autumn, so it won’t take long to lose an acre plot of wild bird seed mix or game cover if you take your eye off them for too long.
Despite the dry spell, slugs are still an issue, so ferric phosphate based slug pellets, which are more environmentally friendly than metaldehyde, may have to be deployed where slug pressure could compromise the crop.
Our feathered friends have also been causing problems for farmers and gamekeepers. Pigeons can decimate a young brassica based crop in days and rooks have already accounted for acres of maize, sorghum and cereals by simply pulling out newly emerged seedlings. Rope, gas bangers, flags and kites can all be effective means of protection and control.
Weeds can be quicker to get away than some species, such as kale and sorghum, which means the crop can be robbed of moisture, nutrition and sunlight. To avoid the burden building, be aware of the pre-em and post-em herbicide options available for your plots. It’s also worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, a few weeds will hurt going forward. This is because farmland birds won’t get chance to eat weed seeds before they are lost into the seed bank where they will cause problems for future crop establishment.
Have you confirmed your nutrient management plan?
All crops require N, P and K, along with various other micronutrients to grow, develop and produce seed. Some need more than others; maize and kale, for example, are extremely hungry crops, especially compared to crop such as reed canary grass and Utopia.
We may not be combining these crops but the birds are harvesting the seeds all the same and the previous crop residue will lock up nutrition for 2 or 3 years depending on factors including volume, soil health and incorporation. Fresh nutrition must therefore be made available to this year’s crop and a nutrient management plan should already have been developed and deployed.
If this isn’t the case, it’s not too late. Applying granular fertiliser as soon as possible will help and since it will take a week or so for this to become crop available, foliar feeding is worth considering too.
Foliar feeding can also help nurse crops through stressful times of drought, flooding and predation. Liquid nutrition will be taken up more easily and quickly by the crop and is more accurate than the granular form but care must be taken with application timing and method to avoid scorch. Don’t tank mix with herbicides and avoid applying during the hottest periods of the day.
Crop failure and late crop establishment
If your wild bird seed or game cover plot has failed due to climate issues, weed or pest pressures, there’s still plenty of time to redrill or establish a new crop behind the combine ready for this season.
For example, Moir Mix can be sown until early July, Universal Mix can be established until the end of July, and with sufficient inputs and good weather, Winter Cover Mix can still make a game cover plot even drilled in early August. Direct drilling into stubble, min tilling or even broadcasting into standing cash crops can all work (remember treated seed must be inverted by law), but the key to success is to conserve moisture and feed the crop. Late sown brassica based mixtures can often make better crops than those that went in too early or into a hostile environment, such as a poor seed bed, no moisture or cold soil.
If a wild bird seed plot has failed for any reason and isn’t required for shooting purposes, consider autumn establishing a wild bird seed mix. Sowing at this time reduces the stress of any volatile spring weather patterns and extreme soil conditions, as well as pest and weed burdens. It can also help balance workloads if you have a big acreage to establish.
Talk to the experts at local events
Growers have plenty of opportunities to see developing crops and talk to local Kings advisors at events in the coming weeks.
Groundswell no-till show and conference takes place in Hertfordshire on 28th and 29th June. As cover crop partner to the event, Kings has provided the green cover crops for the working machinery demonstration area and growers can take a tour of our 14 individual green cover crop plots with our advisors on 29th June. Visit us on the demonstration field to learn more about green cover and how choosing the right species for your individual needs can bring great benefits to your business, such as improved soil structure, nutrient capture, reduced leaching, soil borne pest control, grazing opportunities and fulfilment of Ecological Focus Area and stewardship scheme requirements. Read more here.
Growers can gain valuable insight into how supporting pollinators and beneficial insects can enhance your farm business at two free ‘business benefits of pollinators’ events next month. Lead by Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), the events include a site walk, expert guest speakers Professor Richard Pywell and Rothamsted’s Dr Jonathan Storkey, and advice from local Kings, CFE and Sygenta teams.
Frontier’s 3D Thinking open days are now underway across England and Scotland, demonstrating the latest research from its national Development and Demonstration sites programme. A variety of Kings game cover, green cover and conservation crop trial plots are on show at each site and local advisors will be on hand at each event to explain Kings’ own research and development, discuss which crops are best suited to your business needs and answer any queries you may have. Click here to find your nearest event.
The Allerton Project’s 25th anniversary open day will celebrate 25 years of farming and environmental research at the Allerton Project, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s groundbreaking research and demonstration farm. The open day on 28th June is free to attend and will include a series of timed walks around the farm hosted by members of the Allerton Project team, providing an opportunity to see the agricultural and environmental research and to hear first-hand about the successes over the last 25 years. Kings' Richard Barnes will be speaking at one of the tour stops. Find out more and book your guided walk slot here.
For full details of these events and more, visit our events page.
New residents reward stewardship efforts
Farming in west Warwickshire, Simon Sparkes was delighted to discover two pairs of turtle doves and three barn owl chicks on his farm earlier this month.
It is one of the last sites for breeding turtle doves in the whole of Warwickshire. One pair of turtle doves has frequented the land for some years, but this is the first time that two pairs are almost certainly breeding on the farm.
“I’m really thrilled,” Mr Sparkes exclaimed. “It makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
With a passion for conservation, his Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement includes a specific objective around turtle doves. To meet this, he grows Kings Operation Turtle Dove Mix which includes species such as fumitory and black medick to provide seeds for the birds when they arrive from Africa in May. A camera has also been installed in the grain store to monitor results.
Mr Sparkes is advised by Kings West Midlands technical advisor, Matt Willmott. Having worked together during Matt’s time at Natural England, the pair have a good relationship that has helped to produce great results.
Mr Sparkes also grows Campaign Mix and other agri-environment options, such as tussocky grass margins to provide for the barn owls. Kings grass mixtures provide excellent refuge for mammals and therefore hunting habitats for owls. There is also evidence that flower rich habitats and wild bird seed mixtures are important for kestrels and barn owls, as well as insects and small farmland birds.
Roger Juckes and the South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey team have been monitoring a large number of HLS agreements across Warwickshire for barn owls since 2013 and results appear very encouraging.
Nationally, turtle doves have decreased by over 90% since 1995. Find out how you can help by visiting the Operation Turtle Dove site, speaking to your local advisor or calling 0800 587 9797.
Meet Clive Wood
This month, Kings northern technical advisor, Clive Wood, tells us more about himself.
“Born and bred in Yorkshire, I spent 27 years at a large farming company in East Yorkshire after leaving school. In 2006 I set up my own small seed company which later became part of Kings, where I’ve now worked for six years. As northern technical advisor, I work with a large number of shooting and farming estates throughout the north of England.
I live in a remote farm location on the top of the Yorkshire Wolds near Scarborough and run a small shoot nearby, so I understand the challenges of growing crops in difficult locations and enjoy helping growers in similarly extreme situations to get results.
Outside of work I like to spend time with my family, wife Lesley and daughter Rachel, as well as working on my shoot and fishing for salmon and pike a few times a year.”
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