Welcome to Kings' May e-newsletter. This edition highlights the benefits of autumn sown mixes, advises on game cover drilling, notes how green cover could help with potential legislation changes, invites growers to visit Kings at this summer’s events, emphasises the need to take care of young crops and introduces Kings technical advisor in Scotland, Alan Johnson.
To stay up to date with the latest news from the field, keep in touch with the Kings advisory team and find out what other growers are up to in tweets like those below, follow Kings on Twitter.
Plan now for autumn sown brood rearing and bumble bird mixtures
Establishing wild bird seed mixtures has been tricky for many this spring as conditions have presented us with cold, dry seedbeds.
To avoid a possible repeat of this next year, autumn sown brood rearing mixtures are worth considering. This will spread the workload and the risk while providing great benefits for young broods from mid-May onwards. Establishing a varied mix of cereals, brassicas and nectar producing plants will ensure an abundant supply of insects vital to the success of young broods, as well as providing sanctuary from predators and a season long food source.
There is plenty of time to create quality brood rearing habitats, with autumn sown wild bird seed mixtures still establishing as late as early November. Start to prepare now by spraying off the vegetation and create a rough seedbed, allowing weeds to germinate before spraying again. Use this stale seedbed technique over the summer and spray as often as required.
It's not too late to drill game covers
After this spring bringing cool and very dry conditions and many areas of the UK seeing record low levels of rainfall, the drilling of game cover plots has got off to a slow start.
Ground conditions have been less than ideal in many areas, with a risk of losing valuable moisture where plot preparation is not carefully planned and carried out. However, many areas received a much needed soaking last week and with more rain in the forecast, now is a great time to get your game cover crops in the ground.
Drilling into a warm seedbed with plenty of moisture is much more important than sowing on a particular date and crops sown into early June will still give great results.
Green cover a good option to meet EFA requirements
Proposed changes to bring forward a total ban on pesticides on Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) could have a dramatic impact on which crops growers plant to meet scheme requirements. With the lack of any pesticide or herbicide application to EFAs within the specified periods, farmers and landowners may need to move away from pulses and look to green cover crops to fulfil criteria.
Some of the other proposals on the table include the removal of sowing deadlines for both catch and cover crops, so combined with the ongoing focus on soil health and water quality, there could be some great opportunities to make good of the changes.
Talk to the experts at your local event
The summer events season is upon us and in the coming weeks there will be plenty of opportunities to meet your local Kings advisors, see crop plots and discuss your game cover, conservation, green cover and forage crop needs.
Frontier’s 3D Thinking site open days take place across the UK in June and July. Kings’ presence at all 24 locations gives growers the opportunity to see the development of various specialist crops alongside mainstream combinable crops. Click here to find your nearest event.
As the official cover crop partner at this year's Groundswell event, Kings will show the difference green cover can make to ground conditions as drilling trials take place in a number of demonstration plots. Visit the team at the demonstration field at Groundswell, Lannock Farm, Weston, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG4 7EE on 29th June.
Kings is also sponsoring a shoot walk at Courteenhall, Northampton NN7 2QD on 6th July. Find out more here.
Take care of young crops
As recently established crops begin to emerge, it’s important that they receive the care and attention they require to get the best possible results later in the season. Careful monitoring is essential whether crops have early protection from seed treatments or not, so keep an eye out for early slug, deer and pigeon damage and treat appropriately where needed. Check for the typical shot hole effect caused by flea beetle too; swift action will be necessary if found to ensure the crop isn’t lost.
Meet Alan Johnson
This month, Kings technical advisor in Scotland, Alan Johnson, tells us more about himself.
“Having been brought up on the outskirts of Edinburgh in a non-farming family, I’m often asked how I came to be in this line of work. After dabbling in fishing and shooting at school, I decided to go to Oatridge College, near Edinburgh, to complete my National Certificate in Environment and Conservation. I enjoyed it so much that I continued my education with a National Certificate in Gamekeeping at Elmwood College in Fife.
In 2008, I started as a beat keeper on a commercial shoot in Perthshire, working my way up to the position of head keeper after six seasons. I enjoyed the role but in 2014 had the opportunity to join Kings as technical advisor in Scotland. It’s a big area to cover, but I enjoy travelling through the different landscapes and meeting growers across the country to discuss how they can get the best from their crops.
Outside of work I enjoy beating, working my six dogs (four springer spaniels, a lurcher and a terrier) and running a small shoot near home, though my partner Rebecca and I are expecting our first baby this summer so my spare time is about to become very limited!”
To subscribe to future issues of Kings news, please click here.