Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trials shine the spotlight on local varieties and agronomy

July 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

More than 100 farmers had an insight into varieties and agronomy practices suited to the Midlands when Hutchinsons recently hosted its regional technology centre open day.

Taking place on 28 June, the event featured several agronomy demonstrations and cereals and OSR variety trials. It was hosted hosted by kind invitation of David Skelton, at Grange Farm, Little Ponton, near Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Seeds specialist David Bouch said the excellent turnout highlighted the strong appetite among farmers for local variety and agronomy information.

“Crops grown in this region face very different challenges to those in the north or west, such as higher yellow and brown rust pressure, so it’s important to see how varieties perform under these conditions before making planting decisions.”

Promising varieties

Three wheats looked particularly promising in the Hutchinsons trials, with all offering good yield potential and strong disease scores.  These included Shabras, Gleam and LG Skyscraper – a recommended list candidate variety.

Regarding spring barley, Hutchinsons technical manager, David Howard urged growers not to give up on the crop if it was being grown for blackgrass control, recognising that it has been a very difficult season.

“Many spring crops went in late this year into poor conditions, so were not as competitive, but spring germinating blackgrass is not as much of an issue going forward as seed set is much less than autumn germinating black-grass.”

“Continue with your plans and remember that for the barley crop to be competitive, seed rates must be appropriate, establishment conditions as good as possible and don’t forget nutrition.”

Chasing yield

Lessons from the Yield Enhancement network proved a big talking point, especially around how to set crops up from the start to fulfill their yield potential.

“The biggest correlation to achieving high yield has been found to be biomass,” explained David Howard. “It’s critical to set crops up from the start to have a big biomass if the yield potential of that crop is to be fulfilled.”

He pointed out that crops may not always reach that potential depending on the weather, but outlined how to aim for greater biomass, reducing that risk and variability as much as possible.

“There are two ways of increasing yield either through increasing the number of grains/ear or increasing viable plant tillers.”

“The biological maximum number of wheat grains/ear is not known but it is unlikely that current varieties will be able to exceed 60-70 grains per ear and this is very weather dependent, so that makes it harder to manage.

“However, it is possible to influence tiller numbers by increasing seed rate – if you have more seed you’ll have more plants and more ears/ha- and this approach also reduces the variability.

“What is key however, is to understand what plant numbers you will get from that particular seed rate – so look at the establishment percentage for each field and soil type. Don’t take numbers from a book.”

Nutrition in focus

Talking about crop nutrition, Rob Jewers, fertiliser specialist, shared the results of the Farmacy annual DTR tissue test results. Test results showed that UK crops were showing low levels of
sulphur, potassium and magnesium.

“If sulphur levels are low, this affects the nitrogen: sulphur ratio in the plant and thereby impacts on efficiency of nitrogen use. Grain testing at harvest is particularly useful for diagnosis as it will indicate accurately if there is a deficiency developing.”

Potash was low in almost every sample tested – the quick growth in the spring meant that plants did not have enough time to take it up, he said. Mr Jewers recommended that early spring before stem extension was a good time for potash applications.

He added that magnesium is often overlooked but actually it is needed in high quantities. “If sugar beet is grown in the rotation, this is a good opportunity to apply a fertiliser containing magnesium.”

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