Welcome to Kings' April e-newsletter. This edition considers some common queries at this time of year, encourages growers to consider Countryside Stewardship and introduces Kings’ newest technical advisor, Matt Willmott.
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Common spring queries
As the weather begins to warm up, more and more growers are calling the Kings technical helpline eager to discuss the best way forward for their crops in the coming season. Some of the most common and interesting queries are shared below.
With the recent high temperatures, I’m tempted to drill. Is it still too early or can I go now?
Despite some unseasonably warm weather, with parts of the UK reaching 24oC in recent weeks, it’s still too early to consider drilling most crops. Cereals and kale based mixtures require a soil temperature of at least 8oC, and 12oC for sorghum. This is to give the crop the best early establishment, helping to combat any pest and disease pressure. Cold spells and night time frosts have returned this week in much of the UK, emphasising that it’s best to hold off on drilling until May.
The exception to this rule is for those establishing grasses, wild flowers and pollen and nectar mixtures, which can go in early spring up until around mid May depending on conditions and moisture availability.
I want to create a long term game cover crop in an area between woods, but I don’t know where to start. What should I do?
The first port of call is to know your starting point, so a basic soil analysis for the area is recommended. Knowing if your soil is acidic, alkaline or somewhere in between will help you to select the right crop. If the analysis highlights any areas of concern, these can be rectified before crop establishment takes place, limiting the risk of crop failure. Once the crop type best suited to the area has been identified, you can look to establish at the end of May or early June when soil temperatures have risen. Perennial crops such as Poacher Leave-it are a good choice; this has the potential to last five years and will provide plenty of cover. For an additional feed element, consider adding in some Highland Mix or Poacher Millet Mix.
What’s the best way to manage moisture retention when preparing plots?
There's a fine line between overworking saturated soils too early and losing much needed soil moisture when preparing your seedbed. The key to ensuring you lock in as much moisture as you can is to work your ground down to a rough seedbed and then when conditions allow, follow with a Cambridge roll or press. This will allow rainfall to penetrate the soil surface but reduce evaporation on the hottest days.
Draw up new Countryside Stewardship applications before harvest
The 2018 round of Countryside Stewardship is now open to new applications. With spring drilling almost complete, now is the time to consider what the scheme can offer on your farm.
As last year, the Mid Tier application window will close at the end of September. Growers are encouraged to order application packs as soon as possible, as the process is competitive and it’s important to allow plenty of time to seek advice and prepare paperwork. Application requests must be made to Natural England by 31st July.
The table below outlines the payments associated with some of the key options.
As well as offering advice and guidance on what to include in your application to give you the best chance of acceptance, full application completion and submission, Kings offers the ongoing expert support on crop agronomy and management for the life of the agreement. Together, we can make sure the scheme is achieving the best possible outcomes for the environment and your farm business.
|Nectar flower mix||£511/ha|
|Annual cultivated margins||£532/ha|
|Flower rich margins and plots||£539/ha|
|Winter Feed and Cover|
|Winter bird food (wild bird seed)||£640/ha|
|Supplementary bird feed in winter||£632/t (based on every 2 ha planted bird seed)|
Autumn sown bumblebird mix (provides
summer insects and winter feed and cover)
|Winter cover crops||£114/ha|
|4 – 6m buffer strips||£353/ha (cultivated land) £170/ha (intensive grassland)|
|Enhanced management of maize crops||£133/ha|
|Legume & herb rich sward||£309/ha|
|Ryegrass seed set as winter bird feed||£331/ha|
|Permanent grassland with very low inputs||£95/ha|
Meet Matt Willmott
Matt Willmott joined Kings as West Midlands technical advisor this month. Here he tells us more about himself.
“I joined Kings in early April this year, having spent nearly 17 years as a land management advisor at Natural England and its predecessors. As well as providing environmental advice to many inspiring farmers during that time, I was also heavily involved in developing some of the arable options within the agri-environment schemes. Many Kings products are now key in helping to deliver these.
I’ve certainly had to ‘hit the ground running’, starting at one of the busiest times of the year for the organisation! So far, I’ve been meeting the team and getting to know some of the agronomists and farm traders at Frontier, and steadily building up some new customer contacts, as well as visiting some of my existing farmer contacts.
My specialist area of knowledge is agri-environment schemes and farmland wildlife, particularly farmland birds, and I’m looking forward to promoting the high quality Kings products that not only benefit the farm business but also wider farmland biodiversity. I’ll be heavily involved with helping farmers put together Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship applications this year and like my colleague Neil Harris, I’ll also be delivering some of the associated Mid Tier farmer training to groups and one to one. This is an exciting opportunity for Kings to get even more involved in agri-environment related work.
During my spare time, I enjoy birding, surfing and travelling abroad and in the UK - in between running two teenage boys around!”
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