Welcome to Kings' July e-newsletter. This edition encourages growers to continue their stewardship efforts, reiterates the need to check crops for signs of pests and disease, emphasises the opportunities offered by green cover crops and reminds growers of how useful a log of this year’s performance can be when planning for next season.
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Stewardship status quo
While growers are understandably concerned about the future of stewardship after the UK’s recent vote to leave the EU, there are no imminent changes on the horizon. Existing agreements are still valid, the application window for Countryside Stewardship is still in place and delivery should continue as normal. Through existing schemes and Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), there are plenty of great opportunities to enhance the environment and care for farmland wildlife while benefitting your business.
Should you have any concerns, please speak to your local Kings contact or call 0800 587 9797. As always, Kings’ expert advisors will be on hand to guide growers through any future changes as they arise.
Crop monitoring is vital
Disease monitoring is always a key element of crop management and after recent conditions, vigilance is needed in particular in checking maize for symptoms of eyespot. The disease spreads rapidly down the plant and across the crop and the entire plot can appear dead in as little as two weeks from initial infection. High temperatures can stop this infection in its tracks, or a fungicide can be applied.
Similarly, checking for pests is always important, but damage has been especially high in the last few weeks, with diamondback moth, cabbage white butterflies and wireworm among the challenges reported across England and Scotland.
Meet EFA rules and boost next year's crop with green cover
Harvest is already underway in some areas and many growers will be planning for the green cover crops that will be sown behind the combine. Sown in August and September, green cover has fantastic benefits and can meet EFA requirements too. Crops such as oil radish capture nutrients left over in the soil from the previous cash crop and recycle them into the next crop, as well as improving soil biota and structure and reducing soil erosion.
To fulfil EFA criteria, crops must meet the following rules:
• A sown mix of at least one cereal (rye, oats or barley) and one non-cereal (vetch, phacelia, mustard, oil radish or lucerne)
• Sown by 1st October and left until 15th Jan 2017, after which the crop can be grazed or destroyed.
• A sown mix containing two or more of the following crops: alfalfa, barley, clover, mustard, oats, phacelia, radish, rye, triticale and vetch
• Established between 1st March and 1st October and maintained until 31st December.
With the fallow period now over, green cover also offers a good opportunity to get any bare land back in to working order. Within 8 weeks, carefully selected varieties will have produced fantastic rooting and plenty of green material which can be incorporated prior to winter crop drilling.
Make notes now for better performance in 2017
The new season may seem a long way off, but a little work now could have a positive impact on next year’s game cover crops.
Regularly updating a log of the challenges faced, including land conditions, pests and disease, can be a hugely valuable tool when it comes to selecting and managing next year’s crop. In such a busy industry, not many growers will be able to recall the issues they had to deal with six or eight months ago when it comes to buying seed next February or March.
Notes of current weed burdens can be especially useful. For example, if broadleaved weeds such as redshank and fat hen are a problem now, it may be wise to choose a mixture like Highland Mix or Campaign Mix, which offer post emergence herbicide options. Similarly where couch grass and meadow grass are an issue, brassica mixtures can provide a solution.
If weeds are overwhelming a crop, it’s not too late to start again with a quick growing brassica crop like Kings Winter Cover Mix or Stubbles Mix.
For expert advice on addressing current crop challenges and planning for next season, speak to your local Kings advisor.