Welcome to Kings' April e-newsletter. This edition advises on how to approach establishment given current conditions, answers some common grower queries, highlights the important work of the Operation Turtle Dove project and invites growers to a number of forthcoming events.
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Crop establishment update
Following snow in many regions this month and with soil temperatures still below average, the drilling of wild bird seed mixtures and game cover crops will be a stop-start affair across the UK once temperatures finally start to increase, but remember that there is time to be patient. Though drilling generally takes place from mid May, the trigger should not be a calendar date but suitable conditions. Below are some key points to remember as you start to establish crops.
- Soil nitrogen levels are likely to be lower than average as high rainfall in winter will have caused nitrate leaching. Kings provides targeted analysis to gain an accurate picture of current levels so that action can be taken to ensure crop needs are met. Remember that maize, for example, has a high demand for N, P, K, Mg and S and getting levels right is critical to good establishment.
- Fertiliser application is not an optional extra but vital to establishment. Applying a third of the total required to the seed bed is recommended, with the remainder applied when the crop has emerged.
- Monitor crops regularly for damage by pests such as pigeons, hares and especially slugs, which will be out in force after such a wet period. Where issues are present, seek expert advice on the best action to take.
- Though seed treatments can still be applied to straight kale, they only provide protection against flea beetle at establishment, so be prepared to take appropriate action at the first sign of attack and shot holing in leaves.
- If weeds are an issue, speak to your local Kings advisor to put a herbicide programme in place before drilling where appropriate. In addition to herbicide tolerant mixtures such as Moir Mix, Campaign Mixtures and Highland Mix, it may be possible to create a bespoke mixture that meets business needs and addresses weed challenges too, so seek advice sooner rather than later.
Common grower queries
In recent weeks, Kings’ technical helpline has been popular with growers wishing to discuss the best approach to current weather conditions. Here are some of the recurring questions.
My spring cereal drilling was delayed by the weather so I haven’t had time to get my pollen and nectar established yet. Is it too late?
As a general rule, pollen and nectar, grass and flowers can be established until mid May, depending on conditions. If the weather doesn’t improve enough to allow drilling, there is another window in August and September. This provides the opportunity to create a nice clean stale seed bed to give the crop the best possible chance to get away when it does go in. If sowing for an agreement, you have one year from the start of the agreement to establish any new options but it’s good practice to keep your Natural England advisor informed of any delays.
My pollen and nectar isn’t really growing away. Would applying some fertiliser help?
Please do not apply any fertiliser to legume crops, especially grass and flowers as grasses will flourish and out-compete the flowers. Ideally, fertility needs to be reduced which is why removing cuttings is recommended.
I have a couple of fields which aren’t going into spring cereals as they are too wet. I’m thinking of leaving it fallow, are there any other options?
The options depend on your individual situation and what you hope to achieve. Careful crop selection could improve soil structure, increase soil biota, help to dry waterlogged fields, fix nitrogen and even provide forage. Establishing Kings Soil Vitality Mix or Soil Structure Mix, for example, when soil temperatures increase will bring all of these benefits and give an excellent lead into autumn cereal drilling. Speak to Kings to discuss the best options for your situation.
My Poacher Leave-it is in its second year but doesn’t look like it’s moving. Should I start again?
As we’re having such a cool spring, many perennial crops are only just starting to grow away, so please don’t take drastic action yet. A good application of fertiliser will encourage spring growth. If the crop needs further attention after this, contact Kings for advice specific to your individual circumstances.
Can you help the turtle dove?
As part of the Operation Turtle Dove project, growers are being encouraged to help reverse the decline of the turtle dove. Farmers and land managers are being offered tailored advice and specialist seed to recreate habitats and offer suitable breeding sites for the species in the UK in a bid to boost numbers.
In conjunction with Operation Pollinator and Countryside Stewardship schemes, Operation Turtle Dove offers subsidised seed mixes to Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship agreement holders in the Eastern Counties. At almost half the standard price, the turtle dove mix, including fumitory, is £70 per pack.
The turtle dove population has dropped as its specific nesting and feeding habitats have reduced, including dense thickets, scrubby areas near to water sources and agricultural weeds. The turtle dove is now the UK’s fastest declining bird species and is threatened with global extinction. Operation Turtle Dove aims to deliver conservation action for turtle doves to increase the population and change the fortunes of this important species.
To find our more, visit www.operationturtledove.org or speak to your local Kings advisor.
At a farm walk in East Yorkshire this month, over 40 growers attended to hear host farmer Mr Guy Leonard’s experience of successfully integrating green cover into his farm business. The event included presentations on crop management, nutrition and the MyCompliance advisory service from Kings and Frontier experts. A similar event is to be held next week in Consett, courtesy of Mr Edwin Taylor. For more detail and to book your free place, please click here.
Growers will also be able to talk to the Kings team at this year’s Cereals event on 15th and 16th June and Frontier’s series of more than 20 3D Thinking demonstration and development site open days across England and Scotland. These events will include particular focus on green cover crops, EFA options, Countryside Stewardship, MyCompliance and Operation Pollinator, as well as giving growers the opportunity to learn more about Frontier’s latest research findings. To learn more and find your nearest event, visit Frontier’s events page.
Managing woodland from establishment to maturity to benefit game and wildlife will be the focus of a workshop on 10th June hosted by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in partnership with Kings, the Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission. Click here to find out more and book.
To keep up to date with the latest news and details of events as they are confirmed, visit www.kingscrops.co.uk and follow us on Twitter.