Welcome to Kings' March e-newsletter. This edition advises how to plan for this year’s game crops, emphasises the need for accurate record keeping, highlights the benefits of Synergy seed treatment, gives details of gamekeeper celebration events and introduces southern technical advisor, Marc Bull.
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Game cover preparations
As with all crops, the surest way to ensure your game cover plot achieves its full potential is to give it the best start possible. There is still plenty of time to begin seedbed preparation, but it’s never too early to plan. Creating a schedule of works for the season will help to manage the workload and make sure nothing is forgotten about and rushed at last minute.
- Prepare your seedbed
Begin by creating a seedbed to suit your crop choice. A fine, firm seedbed is the best option for most crops. Remember that the smaller the seed, the finer the seedbed required to provide good seed to soil contact. Know the ideal drilling depth for the crop and check the drill is calibrated to cope with the differing mixes.
- Manage weeds with a stale seedbed and herbicide
A stale seedbed is the best way to reduce the weed burden in the next crop. After ploughing the area and rolling to conserve moisture, wait for weeds to emerge and then apply a non selective herbicide. In organic situations, consider using a chain harrow on the seedbed to destroy weeds instead of a chemical application.
- Check soil fertility
Knowing your soil fertility will help you plan for crop establishment. Talk to Kings about conducting soil sampling. If your plots are low in N, P, K and sulphur, the crop will struggle from the point of emergence. Feeding the crop is a must to achieve results.
- Be patient
Planning ahead is always wise but this doesn’t mean getting the crop in the ground too early. Drilling into a cold, saturated seedbed will inevitably slow the early development of the crop and leave it susceptible to pest and disease attack. This is especially true for brassica crops. Ideally, soil temperatures need to reach at least 8oC with sufficient moisture, rather than working to a specific calendar date as conditions can vary so much from season to season.
Nitrogen fertilisers and manures: Are you keeping the right records?
Game cover crops and wild bird seed mixtures for conservation purposes don’t have a specific N Max limit as they aren’t on the list of applicable crop types. However, growers within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone are still required to keep a full record of any organic and inorganic nitrogen applied to the land. All nitrogen applications should follow the four step recording process:
- Calculate the amount of nitrogen available in the soil that is likely to be available for uptake to the next crop (the soil nitrogen supply)
- Calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen that should be applied to the crop
- Calculate how much nitrogen may be applied from any organic manure applications that will be crop available
- Calculate the remaining requirement for manufactured nitrogen.
Growers applying organic manures must also have a risk map of the land. For further help and advice, contact your Kings advisor or the MyCompliance team on 0333 0044555.
Consider seed treatment for new maize and kale plots
Weather permitting, game cover and wild bird seed planting is now just a few weeks away. To fit in with other farm cropping, game cover crops are often grown on small plots, in poor soil conditions and receive little care and attention, but paying close attention to the basics of crop establishment is key to crop success.
As well as the points above, readily available nutrient is a key factor in assisting with rapid early growth. Kings Synergy is a unique and exclusive seed treatment that is very cost effective, easy to use and gives plants an ideal start. The treatment combines a carefully balanced ratio of nutrients with a unique growth promoter, Seed-LifeTM and an appropriate insecticide into one seed coating.
On maize, we apply this treatment as Synergy Maize. The N, P and Zn are combined with the insecticide Mesurol® to help control frit fly and other soil pests and reduce the risk of slug attack and bird damage. This treatment is available on Kings Poacher Maize.
On kale, we apply it as Synergy Kale. Inclusion of the insecticide Cruiser SB makes this treatment very effective at reducing early flea beetle and aphid damage. Cruiser is tightly controlled by an EAMU from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate, so treated kale must not be broadcast, should not be planted at more than 3.7 kilos per hectare and spillages must be cleaned up quickly. Synergy Kale is available on Coleor, 1000 Head and Caledonian kales.
Gamekeeper celebration events
The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT) provides a valuable service to those in the industry, from keepers just starting their career to those that have retired. The GWT celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is marking the occasion with five Gamekeeping for Life conferences which will include a number of key speakers, case studies and demonstrations to celebrate the relationships between keepers and employers. Remaining dates are:
- 12th April - Blair Athol, Perthshire
- 25th April - Floors Castle, Roxburghshire
- 3rd May - Sparsholt College, Winchester
Following many years of working with the GWT, Kings is pleased to support the Trust in 2017 by donating £1 from every bag of Winter Wildlife Holding Cover sold. We look forward to presenting the donation this summer.
Meet Marc Bull
This month, Kings southern technical advisor, Marc Bull, tells us more about himself.
“Originally from West Yorkshire, I learned a lot about the countryside from an early age. I was keen on ferreting and air rifle shooting in West and North Yorkshire and after leaving school, studied for a National Diploma in Countryside Management followed by a degree in Wildlife and Countryside Conservation at Bishop Burton Agricultural College.
My first job was for DEFRA controlling non-native invasive species, alongside which I keepered a small pheasant shoot part time. Before joining Kings in 2012, I also worked as a beat keeper on a North Yorkshire grouse moor along with a pheasant shoot, in arable and beef farming, and lowland keepering. With heavy emphasis on wild bird production, these roles gave me good experience in habitat management and good vermin and predator control.
I moved between Yorkshire and the south for work and then settled in Buckinghamshire with my partner, Carrie. As Kings southern technical advisor, I now work with growers in Oxfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cornwall and everywhere in between, helping them to get the most from their game cover, conservation, green cover and forage crops.
In my spare time, I keeper the walk one stand one syndicate that I started in 2015. We shoot seven days a year aiming for 70-90 birds (pheasant and duck). The goal is to provide eight 80-120 bird days (pheasant, duck and partridge). Birds are currently released but again there’s a big emphasis on wild bird production, so we’re trying to improve habitats and control of vermin and predators.
I like to fish, though I don’t get much chance these days. Fellow Kings advisor, Meehal and I try to get out once or twice a year when possible.
Carrie and I get married this October and will have been together 10 years to the day on our wedding day. We have three working cocker spaniels, Taffi, Peggy and Bella and a jack russell called Alfi.”
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