Welcome to Kings' November e-newsletter. This edition encourages growers to review their stewardship efforts, advises on the added advantages of careful hedgerow management, reiterates the regulations around supplementary feeding, outlines the options available for destroying green cover crops in the coming weeks and tells readers more about Kings sales manager, Richard Barnes.
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Applying for Countryside Stewardship
After some post Brexit uncertainty, most growers managed to submit their Mid Tier application proposals before the 30th September closing date. Scoring by Natural England is now underway and growers should find out if their applications have been successful by mid December.
Uptake has been higher this year which will make the scoring process more competitive than last year, emphasising the need to seek expert advice to secure a successful application.
Next year’s application window is expected to open in March 2017 for successful applicants to start their schemes in January 2018. Growers with Environmental Stewardship agreements that expire before 1st January 2018 will need to submit a Mid Tier application to retain agri-environment scheme funding.
Countryside Stewardship has a lot to offer. As well as its environmental benefits, it provides a valuable additional income stream for growers, with a regular annual payment in an otherwise volatile farming sector. Poor ground can be taken out of production and farmed more profitably and carefully chosen options can enhance sporting interests too.
We are now in the period that hedge cutting is permitted, but timing should be carefully considered as hedgerow management can have a huge impact on wildlife.
Under Cross Compliance, hedges cannot be cut between 1st March and 31st August, although coppicing and hedge laying can be done until 30th April. Delaying hedge trimming into January or February dramatically increases the amount of berries produced, providing winter food for thrushes and other farmland birds.
Decreasing the frequency of cutting also increases the amount of flowers produced, particularly in species such as hawthorn which tend to flower on second and third year growth. An increase in flowers will increase numbers of bees and other pollinators which have a positive impact on many commercial crops. Remember that Countryside Stewardship agreements have a baseline requirement to cut hedges no more than every other year.
Managing hedgerows in different ways is also beneficial as different wildlife species prefer different habitats. Yellowhammers favour fairly short, dense hedges whilst turtledoves prefer tall, spacious hedges with wild clematis and ivy. Grey partridge like hedgerows 2-3 metres high next to grass buffers for nesting and insect rich habitat for their chicks.
To meet these needs, Kings supplies packs of native and non native species for gapping up hedgerows and planting new ones, as well as tree species and the guards to protect them.
Supplementary winter feeding soon to begin
As winter sets in and the frequency of frosts increases, many farmland birds will become reliant on supplementary winter feeding. In stewardship schemes, this consists of a mix of cereals, oilseed rape and smaller seeds like millets, canary seed and quinoa.
In Countryside Stewardship, feeding should start around 1st December, or 1st January in Environmental Stewardship, with both finishing at the end of April. Remember that if your agreement has a commitment to provide, for example, 3 tonnes of feed, you need to purchase this amount each year, even if you have some left over from previous years. Failure to do so can expose you to the risks of reclaims and penalties if you are inspected by the RPA. If you have a lower requirement in any one year, contact Natural England to amend your agreement to reflect the amount purchased in that year.
Kings supplies a variety of supplementary feeding mixes, including full mixes with cereals, oilseed rape and smaller seeds, premixes with just the smaller seeds with or without oilseed rape, and bespoke mixes to cater for particular needs. Talk to a Kings advisor to identify the best mix for your requirements.
Timely destruction of green cover crops
Thought now needs to be given to the timely destruction of cover crops before spring planting.
There are four main choices when terminating cover crops. These are linked to soil type, choice of spring crop, spring crop drill type, cover crop volume, and most importantly, the type of cover crop.
- Grazing off the cover crop is a good way to achieve added value on light to medium soil types
- Flailing the crop, followed by ploughing, cultivating or direct drilling
- Ploughing alone can be suitable if the cover crop is short
- Killing with herbicide is the most popular choice.
Other methods are available to suit specific cover crops.
Timing of destruction is important. Depending on soil type and drilling method, a kill approximately 7 weeks before spring planting is often a good choice, though many growers successfully spray with glyphosate alone about one week prior to planting.
Consultation with a Kings or Frontier advisor is strongly recommended when choosing the most appropriate method for your crop.
Meet Richard Barnes
This month, Kings sales manager, Richard Barnes, tells us more about himself.
“My journey to Kings began when I graduated from the Royal Agricultural University in the 1990s. I was keen to follow my interests in farming and game management so worked on some large arable units through harvest and spent two 'seasons' working on estates in Perthshire and the Hebrides as a stalking/fishing ghillie. It was hard work but really interesting and enjoyable.
I then worked as a gamekeeper for six years in Kent and the Cotswolds to develop my practical skills and gain a better understanding of how sporting, farming and conservation interests can work together and benefit each other.
The move to technical advisor for Kings in 2004 was quite a change from working outdoors every day, but the last twelve years have brought a tremendous opportunity to see some wonderful farms across the UK. I really enjoy meeting new people and gain great satisfaction from helping our customers to get the best from their crops, whether it’s a game crop on a shoot or 400 hectares of green cover crops to address soil health and weed issues.
It’s no secret in our team that I’m a keen fisherman for six months of the year. During the other six months I work our cocker spaniels on shoots near to home in South Lincolnshire and sometimes further afield. I am blessed to have a very patient wife and son!”
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