Welcome to Kings' October e-newsletter. This edition provides some reminders for the coming weeks, emphasises the need to care for hedgerows, notes how cover crops can improve maize and invites growers to a range of events.
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Kings southern technical advisor
Timely reminders for the month ahead
Hopefully most growers were able to get crops such as pollen and nectar mixtures or floristically enhanced grass margins in the ground before the cooler evenings arrived this month. Most of these will not need management until early spring, but topping before the winter is recommended if weed species are present in high numbers or if the crops have pushed on to around eight inches tall.
Autumn sown wild bird seed mixtures, on the other hand, can be established through to the end of November if conditions allow and with careful selection of species and mixture. Once in the ground, they may require some TLC to reach their full potential. If the mix includes brassicas, for example, growers must be mindful of flea beetle, slugs and, particularly in legume or pollen and nectar mixtures, pigeons and deer too. Regularly checking crops for any signs of pest damage is essential and if found, appropriate action must be taken to avoid any detrimental impact on crop performance. Seek advice if unsure.
The same attention should be paid to crop nutrition. All crops need adequate P and K to aid root establishment and further crop growth later in the season and while autumn cereals may not require a lot of nitrogen, the right amount can make or break an autumn sown brassica crop. Care must be taken when applying N so as not to breach NVZ regulations, but this nutrition will be paramount to good establishment and crop survival through the depths of winter.
Now is also a good time to start thinking about supplementary feeding to provide an extra food source for farmland birds through the winter months; see the next Kings newsletter for further advice.
Are you using hedgerows to their full potential?
Now is also the prime time to assess hedgerow and woodland habitats and make a management plan in preparation for the planting window that lays ahead.
With a number of benefits for wildlife, hedgerows are a core element of any farmland environment, offering tussocky nesting for ground birds, overwintering habitat for pollinators and small mammals such as voles and shrews and a larder of food for farmland birds until the end of the year.
Heading into spring, hedgerows can also provide nectar sources for pollinators before flowers begin to open and some overhead protection from avian predation too. They can be used as "corridors" for both game and wildlife by linking seasonal habitats together as well as providing windbreaks, screens and flushing points on shoot days.
With so many advantages, we must look to use, enhance, manage and respect this important habitat. The winter months allow us to plant new hedgerows, perhaps to replace historic ones removed under previous subsidies or to break up large or barren fields. It's also a good time to fill in any large holes in existing hedgerows, as these gaps can be a barrier to some species, or can render the habitat almost useless if used for game shooting. Where plants are young, consider if they are ready to be "laid" to force the plants to intertwine and thicken out at the base as well as the top, so that you are not ultimately left with a line of tall shrubs or short trees with no bottom.
Woodland management is equally important and well timed side arming, thinning, coppicing, underplanting and even clear felling and replanting areas depending on the current state should be planned now to fit the aims of your habitat. For many, woodland work will take place after the shooting season ends on 2nd February, but with such a short window for woodland management, assessing plants and making decisions now will be time well spent.
Make the most of maize
With maize now being cut for forage, thoughts should be firmly focused on stubble management.
Maize growers using their crop for livestock or AD should give consideration to the benefits that cover crops could bring to their maize fields, or whether cover crops could be a suitable second crop post harvest. Winter turnip rape can be drilled as late as the end of October and is winter hardy enough to produce a palatable bite for livestock after Christmas, while rye can be established for whole crop forage or AD use depending on the varieties used. Alternatively, both of these crops can be used as a simple cover crop to help repair soil structure and support soil biota until the fields are ready to be prepared for the 2016 maize crop.
It is important to be aware of the Good Agricultural & Environmental Conditions (GAEC) and relatively recent changes, such as GAEC 4 published in January 2015 which states that to protect against soil erosion, growers must avoid bare soil except in extreme conditions or when preparing to sow the following crop. Services such as Frontier's MyCompliance can help to avoid any contraventions of regulations; call 0333 0044555 for more information.
Talk to the experts at winter events
A range of events has been planned over the next few months that provides great opportunities for growers to see crops, learn more about green cover, game cover and conservation and talk to the experts about their own specific circumstances. Visit Kings at any of the events below.
- 29th October - South Lincolnshire Grey Partridge meeting, George Hotel, 20 High Street, Leadenham LN5 0PN 7.30pm
- 10th November - Green cover demonstration site at Blandys Farm, Malshanger, Hampshire RG23 7ES 10am - 12pm
- 16th November - Green cover demonstration day at Highfield Farm, Cadwell, Lincolnshire LN11 9SB 10.30am - 3pm
- 19th November- CFE meeting at Courteenhall Farms, Courteenhall Road, Blisworth Northamptonshire NN7 2QB 10.30am - 2.30pm
- 24th November - CFE meeting at Tilton on the Hill Village Hall, Oakham Rd, Leicester LE7 9LL 7 - 9pm
- 1st December - Green cover demonstration evening at Lodge Farm, Burton Pedwardine, Lincolnshire NG34 0DF 7 - 9pm
A number of events focusing on green cover have also been organised by Campaign for the Farmed Environment, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Action for the River Kennet. Seed for the plots has been provided by Kings and our advisors will be on hand at each event to discuss the crops and answer growers' queries.