Welcome to Kings' February e-newsletter. This edition examines some key questions to help plan for next season, highlights this year’s Countryside Stewardship application window, emphasises the importance of soil health and how to improve it, and explains how the MyCompliance service can help ease administrative workloads.
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Lessons learned from last season
With last season still fresh in our minds, now is a good time to reflect on what has worked well and more importantly, what has not worked so well to help put a plan in place ready for next season.
Think about your game cover crops from the last year for example. Have they performed as intended? Did they hold the birds all season, or does crop selection or location need to be reconsidered going forward? Has the crop begun to look sad and struggle with the weed burden, or was it prone to the effects of severe weather conditions? Some more key questions are answered below, but to really make the most of your land, seek specific advice from an expert.
- Is soil sampling really necessary?
Knowing your starting point is essential to achieve crop success. Soil sampling should be routinely undertaken every four years to identify the pH and the nutrient content of your soils. This will be your first clue as to why you may have experienced problems in the past and how they may be resolved. Deficiencies in macro or micro nutrients can have a stark effect on plant growth. For example, a phosphate deficiency in maize can lead to a stunted crop with a poor rooting structure. This can be exaggerated in soils with low or high pH or compacted and waterlogged soils. A kale crop with lower pH indices can be susceptible to clubroot, so lime application may be needed to raise the pH, or perhaps a change of crop to better suit your soil type.
- Why should I include a perennial crop?
A permanent feature such as a hedge or perennial windbreak could be a solution to shield birds from the harsh winter conditions, holding them in the crop longer and providing structure to plots. It could reduce the costs of establishing a new crop annually too. Crops such as chicory for its tough woody structure, reed canary grass for its warmth and nesting potential or artichokes for a full canopy cover from year one can have great benefits.
- I can destroy my game crops now, can’t I?
Before the destruction of last season’s cover ready for new crop establishment, consider if it still has feed value for both wildlife and wild game over the coming months. Spring has yet to arrive and with natural food sources depleted, game cover plots may provide a much needed food supply. Remember that wild bird seed plots within Entry Level Stewardship schemes should be maintained until 1st March and for Higher Level Stewardship, until 15th March.
Apply for Countryside Stewardship from next month
The application window for Countryside Stewardship schemes starting in 2018 will open again in March. For growers with existing schemes coming to an end or those just beginning their stewardship efforts, Countryside Stewardship has a lot to offer, including valuable additional income and better use of previously unproductive land.
Early preparation is vital to make sure that the options selected not only suit the farm business, but also reflect local priorities such as water quality, flower-rich grasslands, farmland birds and national and local designations. Applications are competitive, so working with an expert will help to increase your chances of success. Speak to your local Kings contact for advice specific to your individual circumstances.
Soil management: Don't travel too soon
As spring approaches, the temptation to get back on the land is high. However, good soil management is key to maintaining productivity on farm and travelling too early with heavy machinery or poaching livestock can cause damage that may take years to rectify.
Maintaining and improving soil structure and health is fundamental to improving farm profitability and providing a buffer to unpredictable weather conditions. Good soil structure will help to:
- Increase water holding capacity
- Promote root growth and yield
- Maintain aeration and drainage
- Make cultivation easier
- Reduce erosion risk.
For those looking to improve the buffering capacity of their soil to allow earlier cultivations and improve soil health, a green cover crop should be seriously considered. With expert advice and discussion of species selection based on your current and future cropping rotation, green cover crops can bring a whole host of benefits, including improved soil structure and increased soil organic matter.
As spring approaches and workloads increase, keeping abreast of regulations and all the necessary paperwork can be difficult, but whether it be through the Basic Payment Scheme or Countryside Stewardship, it’s paramount that growers claiming funds are fully compliant with the rules and regulations.
The MyCompliance service helps to reduce the risk of falling foul of the many intricacies of the differing schemes. From compiling management plans for Cross Compliance and Farm Assurance schemes to completing an application for Countryside Stewardship, MyCompliance can help. For further information, please speak to your local Kings advisor or call 0800 587 9797.
2017 catalogue out now
Kings’ 2017 catalogue is out now. Featuring innovative game cover, conservation, green cover and forage products as well as case studies and expert advice from the whole team, it’s a must read for all growers.
This year’s catalogue is available as a hard copy and electronically. The digital version includes links to our products and even more articles online, meaning selecting and ordering your seed has never been easier.
Kings newsletter subscribers have already been sent a digital copy of the catalogue. If you’re not a subscriber, or you would like to request a hard copy, please click here.
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