Crop Establishment

Soil plays a vital role in the establishment and growth of any crop and unfortunately its management and maintenance is often overlooked. Problems with soil structure will affect root development, fertility uptake and moisture retention. Compaction is often a hidden problem that will affect many crops, with maize particularly susceptible. Plants that are able to develop a strong, extensive root system are much better placed to cope with stress, such as prolonged periods of dry weather.

For further advice on any of these factors and advice specific to your business, give Kings a call on 0800 587 9797.

The importance of healthy soils

Alongside our colleagues from SOYL and Frontier as part of its Soil Life service, our advisors can help you put your plans for improved soil health and resilience into action. In addition to comprehensive soil analysis, we can give advice and help you select mixtures to suit your farm's needs.

Through ongoing research and development, we produce all our own mixtures which are fully proven in the UK. Some of our most innovative demonstration work is undertaken in partnership with several host farmers as part of Frontier's Soil Life trials network. Learn more about our work at the links below.

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Soil pH Levels

Incorrect pH levels can significantly affect the uptake of trace elements even if they are present in the soil. Acidic soils that show a low pH can be restored to a more neutral level by adding lime, applied as a bulk powder form or as pelleted lime, which is easier and cleaner to handle. Crops planted in soils that display a high pH (alkaline) may require a trace element spray to balance the reduced opportunity to uptake nutrients from the soil.

To ensure that the soil nutrient levels are maintained at the required level, we strongly recommend that soil is tested on a regular basis. On new sites, testing should be done in the first year before establishing a crop.

Kings’ full soil testing service measures pH, major nutrient and trace element levels; click here to read more.

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Weed Control

Weeds continue to be one of the biggest obstacles to successful crop establishment. Where plots are cropped repeatedly and often with mixtures, weed burdens can quickly build up.

Careful choice of crop species, with consideration of any known weed problems, can help with herbicide selection and usage. The benchmark weed control method for all game cover plots is the stale seed bed technique - this is a simple, effective method of limiting the early establishment of weed species.

If a drilled crop can establish quickly in a weed-free environment, it has a much greater chance of beating off any later pressure from late weed growth, pests and disease.


Seedbed Preparation

For crops to get off to a good start, the seed requires good soil contact so small seeds, such as kale and quinoa, need fine, firm seed beds. Larger seeds also need a reasonably fine seed bed for successful germination. This can be helped by rolling the ground after drilling, which in turn will help to retain valuable moisture.

Fertiliser use at this stage will aid crop establishment. An application of farmyard manure will be of great assistance by improving soil structure, increasing aeration and helping to retain moisture.

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The monitoring and control of plant pests is as important for successful specialist crop establishment as it is for arable and vegetable crops. The damage caused by pigeons, crows and rabbits can be significant and setting deterrents such as flags, bangers and traps is time well spent.

Game birds can also cause significant damage to establishing crops, particularly those adjacent to woodland areas. Supplementary feeding next to cover areas is worth considering to divert the attentions of roving game birds intent on following individual drill lines and digging up emerging seedlings.

Slugs are a significant pest, present in varying numbers each year. Cold, damp springs normally result in wet and cloddy seed beds that are ideal for slugs to take a hold in. Regular monitoring may indicate that an application of slug pellets is required, however, drilling slightly later and rolling the seed bed afterwards will assist in preventing damage.

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