Welcome to Kings' February e-newsletter. This edition gives timely advice on tasks to complete at this point in the season, reminds growers of the importance of supplementary feeding and announces the new Kings website.
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Crop management recommendations
As we approach one of the busiest times of the season, I share my tips on the areas that growers should focus on to give their specialist crops the best chance of success.
• Take care when travelling
After such a wet winter, many plots are still saturated. One of the most important pieces of advice at this time of year is to take time and care when considering plot preparation, as travelling on saturated land can cause untold structural damage. It may be tempting to think that taking the tractor out on quieter days will help you to get ahead, but there is still plenty of time to consider plot management and time may be better spent planning and allowing the land to dry out and recover.
• Undertake soil testing
Soil testing should be carried out every 4 to 5 years and is especially valuable at this time of year after excess rainfall. Identifying pH levels and nutrient content is the first step in correcting any deficiencies before drilling and could be the difference between good and poor establishment. Unknown P and K indices, for example, could lead to over or under application and cause trace elements to lock up within the soil, impacting on establishment. Though soil testing is one of the most economical aspects of growing crops, it can have the most dramatic effect.
• Consider your stewardship commitments
Wild bird seed mixes can be flailed from 1st March under Entry Level Stewardship and from 15th March for Higher Level Stewardship.
Any two year wild bird seed mixes should be monitored. They may not look their best at the moment, but making efforts to reduce pigeon damage, applying a top dressing of nitrogen and controlling weeds will ensure these plots are producing excellent feed and cover again by autumn.
Remember that RPA inspections can take place even in the last week of existing agreements too, so don’t destroy covers too soon. If entering the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, speak to your advisor to find out which features can be transferred or adapted to meet requirements.
• Scrutinise your crops’ success
Evaluate whether crop establishment was successful this year and consider the reasons for any shortfalls to make sure they are not repeated. Think about who should take responsibility for establishment and plot management and whether contractors will be required.
Consider any weed burdens and how these were controlled. Timings may need to be revised, or alternative crops identified to allow a proactive agronomy programme. Campaign Mix and Moir Mix are useful for many situations; contact Kings to discuss the best options for your business.
• Alternative crop options
As the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable throughout the year, many growers are considering the benefits of perennial crops. Creating windbreaks and headland strips with crops such as chicory, reed canary grass and Poacher Leave-it will provide cover for game birds and give some security against whatever the weather brings in future. Incorporating features like these will also reduce yearly establishment commitments and help to spread the workload. Speak to your local advisor to find out how they could benefit your land.
Still time to support birds with supplementary feeding
Although autumn and winter have been much milder than usual, please don’t forget the importance of supplementary feeding. During the ‘hungry gap’ of December to April, natural food sources and even the best wild bird seed mixtures have depleted and farmland birds will rely on growers to provide an additional food source.
Spinning a range of small seeds, such as cereals, oilseed rape, millet and sunflowers, onto winter stubbles and hard standing gives farmland birds a ready supply of high protein, helping to maintain good body weight as they come into the breeding season.
New website now live
The new Kings website is now live. With information and guidance on a wide range of game cover, conservation, green cover and forage products and a new, simple to use online shop, buying your specialist seed has never been easier. The site will also be updated regularly to bring you the latest specialist crop news and advice.
Kings’ 2016 catalogue is also hot off the press and will arrive with growers this week. As well as containing innovative products, you can find interesting case studies and expert advice on establishment, management and legislation. To request your free copy, by email or by post, please click here.