Anglia Farmer January 2022

Page 1

January 2022

Anglia

Farmer

Serving the farming industry across East Anglia for over 35 years

Spring crop management: How to get the best from nitrogen fertiliser

News Reasons to be cheerful in 2022

Livestock Campaign aims to woo consumers

Arable New varieties on Recommended Lists

Property Warehouse opportunities for farmers

Muck & Slurry ‘Ludicrous’ rules must be changed

Soiled goods: ‘Postcode lottery’ over carbon scheme

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Anglia Farmer

OPINION Johann Tasker

EDITORIAL Editor: Johann Tasker | T: 07967 634971 E: johann@ruralcity.co.uk

Design: Mark Shreeve | T: 01502 725839 E: mark.shreeve@micropress.co.uk

Advertisement production: Jade Soanes | T: 01502 725840 E: jade.soanes@micropress.co.uk

ADVERTISING SALES Chloe Miller | T: 01502 725844 E: chloe.miller@micropress.co.uk Danny Lewis | T: 01502 725862 E: danny.lewis@micropress.co.uk Alistair Bailey | T: 01502 725854 E: alistair.bailey@micropress.co.uk Daniel Rice | T: 01502 725858 E: daniel.rice@micropress.co.uk Adam Gunton | T: 01502 725813 E: adam.gunton@micropress.co.uk

Anglia Farmer is a controlled circulation magazine published monthly for farmers and growers in the eastern counties. To be included on the circulation list, a farmer must have a minimum of 70 acres of land, or 50 dairy/beef stock, or 50 breeding sows/250 growing stock, or 15,000 laying hens/broiler chickens. Intensive horticulture units are required to have a minimum of two hectares. Subscription is £18 a year (including postage). No responsibility can be accepted by the publishers for the opinions expressed by contributors. If you no longer wish to receive this magazine, please email your name, address and postcode as it appears on the wrapper to annie.fish@micropress.co.uk © Countrywide Publications 2022 Published by Countrywide Publications, Fountain Way, Reydon Business Park, Reydon Suffolk IP18 6DH T: 01502 725800 Printed by Micropress Ltd, Suffolk. T: 01502 725800

Challenging year – but best will still do well

A

trio of challenges greets farmers at the start of 2022 – making the beginning of this year one of the most uncertain in recent times. The first challenge is political and economic uncertainty. Almost six years have passed since the Brexit referendum and farmers are still grappling with an ongoing lack of detail about the government’s policies for the sector. The second challenge is social. It includes the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and devastating impact it is having on human health, supply chains and the wider economy – as well as labour shortages. The third challenge is arguably the biggest of our times: the environment. It includes the need to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we strive to secure a Net Zero future. Solutions to these challenges remain largely out of the hands of individual farmers. But we can all do our bit. And it remains clear that well-managed farm businesses are among the best performing whatever challenges are

Contents

Vol 42 • No 1 • January 2022

News . ................................................................... 4 Arable . ................................................................. 8 Spring Crop Management .......................... 27 Muck & Slurry ................................................. 43

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thrown at the sector as a whole. Farmgate prices are up across most sectors – with the notable exception of pigs. But so too are input costs. Fuel and fertiliser prices especially have reached eye-watering levels, making good business management even more important. At the same time, we have just seen the first cuts in farm support as the government phases out the Basic Payment Scheme. These cuts will continue apace – with payments halved by 2024 and gone altogether by 2028. Savvy farmers will already be trying to replace any lost income. But doing so is more easily said than done – and will often involve hefty investment, learning new skills and seeking out new business opportunities. But success is possible – even if it takes us out of our comfort zone. Despite the challenges faced by farming across the region, we wish all our readers a happy new year and all the best for 2022. Johann Tasker Editor

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News Still reasons to be optimistic despite challenging year • • •

Mixed fortunes for farm enterprises Prices high – but so are input costs Best farmers will still be successful

F

arming faces a challenging year – but the best growers and livestock producers will continue to run successful businesses, say analysts. The coming 12 months will see many farm businesses face increased pressure on profitability, according to Outlook 2022 – the annual look at the year ahead by farm business consultants Andersons. While output prices generally look set to be good, the issue of rising costs will take centre-stage, says Andersons partner Richard King. Coupled with another drop in the Basic Payment to farmers, this is likely to see profits fall, he adds. “The last two years have been dominated by the twin shocks of Brexit and Covid. It seems increasingly clear that there is not going to be a date when these two issues can be considered ‘done’ – the effects will be with us for many years.”

High prices Farmgate prices have been buoyed for some years now by the relatively weak value of Sterling, says Mr King. They remain high across many farm sectors – with some notable exceptions such as pigs. But it remains to be seen whether prices will be sustained if consumers change their buying habits post-Covid. “Events have thrown many of the previous certainties up in the air and it is not entirely clear yet where the pieces will land.” The coming 12 months could see Sterling appreciate against the Euro and Dollar – with a negative impact on farm incomes. At the same time, costs 4 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

for many key inputs – such as fertiliser and fuel – have risen rapidly. Price rises have also been seen in the cost of many capital items, such as machinery, equipment and buildings. Lack of labour is an ongoing issue for many businesses too – including those in the sector livestock (see page 60). “This is making life more difficult for those farmers who wish to invest in their businesses,” says Mr King. Rising inflation is also making its mark felt in the cost of general overheads such as office administration. These changes in the farming economics are all set against a long-term imperative to address environmen-

Some farm sectors have fared better than others

(Photo: Simon Collins/ Shutterstock.com

tal issues – especially around climate change and pollution. This will require armers to “to their bit” alongside other industries. Despite this a raft of challenges, Mr King has an upbeat message for farmers. “With so much uncertainty around the external business environment, it might be easy to become fatalistic,” he says. “Farmers have control over how they structure and operate their businesses. Experience shows that being the ‘best in class’ and having a longterm plan allow farms to be successful – whatever the economic and political conditions.”

Norfolk conference tickets now on sale Tickets are on sale for next month’s Norfolk Farming Conference – due to be held on 10 February at the Norfolk showground. The one-day event will discuss the latest government policies for farming, pressure to combat climate change, global trade and markets – and the impact that Net Zero targets are likely to have on the environment and resources. Returning after a break due to the pandemic, conference organisers

and supporters include Brown & Co, Birketts, Lovewell Blake, NatWest, Norfolk County Council and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. Brown & Co managing partner Charles Whitaker (pictured) said: “We feel it’s important at a time of such major change for the farming industry that the conference addresses the issues that are challenging farming and land use.” For ticket details, visit www.bit.ly/NorfolkTickets


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News

Farm fires spark calls for more safety checks

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ural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers to introduce extra safety measures after the cost of farm fires soared by 40% to more than £69m. Electrical faults were a major cause of farm fires in 2020, says the company, which insures three quarters of UK farms. Extreme weather and dry conditions also contributed to the huge cost of incendiary incidents. The eastern region was the worst-affected region, with costs totalling £21.5m. Northern Ireland was the second worst-affected region where fire claims cost £14.7m. It was followed by southwest England where claims reached £8m. Fire spreading from electrical cabinets underlined the importance of regular inspections by competent professionals – in addition to regular dust-downs and ensuring clear space around control panels.

Alarming trend Fires involving increasingly popular biomass boilers were an alarming new trend as more farmers sought alternative fuel sources. Risks can be mitigated with proper servicing and maintenance – and good housekeeping and waste disposal procedures. Agricultural vehicle fires accounted for an additional £20m during 2020. Fires writing off combine harvesters prompted the insurer to discount premiums for farmers fitting accredited fire suppression systems to vehicles. Evita Van Gestel, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said fires put businesses as well as lives at risk: “It’s vitally important to have Vehicles worth an extra £20m went up in flames

an emergency plan in place to protect everyone who might live on, work at or visit the farm. “Farmers are under huge pressure to keep the country fed and adapt their businesses to changes in agriculture, so regularly reviewing your fire risk assessment and acting on your findings is vital to reduce the risk of seeing your efforts go up in smoke.” Most fires were preventable by carrying out routine maintenance and inspection on heating systems, electrical installations and machinery – and controlling hot works within farm workshops, said Ms Van Gestel. “Implementing and maintaining good standards of housekeeping, particularly around the storage of combustibles and flammables such as hay, straw and fuels, will also reduce the risk of a fire spreading.”

Five fire safety tips Have a plan in place – Ensure everyone on site knows what to do in the event of a fire. Don’t mess with electrics – Electrical faults are a major cause of fire – and can kill. Suppress the risk – suppression systems can detect, contain and extinguish fires. Good maintenance – Ensure materials and machinery are stored correctly. Control hot work – Welding and similar work should be done outside, or at least in an area away from combustibles

The lapwing is among the species causing concern

‘You can make a difference to wildlife’

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armers, gamekeepers and land managers are being encouraged to help wildlife by getting involved in next month’s Big Farmland Bird Count. Due from run for a fortnight from 4-20 February, the annual bird count is organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). It is increasingly popular with a record-breaking number of participants and last year. “We are challenging the UK’s land managers to beat their own record and make 2022’s count bigger than ever,” says GWCT organiser and head of advisory services Roger Draycott. One in four bird species are in serious trouble, according to the latest Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) list. Farmers can make a real and immediate difference by adopting effective conservation measures, says Dr Draycott. As well as recording numbers, the bird count highlights the work already done by farmers and gamekeepers to help reverse any decline. It also gives a national snapshot of the health of the UK’s birdlife. Last year saw the number of counts submitted leap from 1,500 to 2,500, with participants monitoring 1m hectares of land across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Organisers hope that even more people will get involved this year. The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count is sponsored by the NFU. Carrying out a count on your land takes just 30 minutes. To download a count sheet and take part, visit www.bfbc.org.uk.

6 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022


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Arable Record number of variety traits on new Recommended Lists • Improved choice of milling wheat • Better lodging resistance ratings • Open-pollinated oilseed varieties

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record number of variety types and traits have been added to the latest cereals and oilseeds Recommended Lists for 2022/23. The latest lists include an improved choice of spring and winter milling wheats; new options for brewing and distilling; and new traits for barley – including tolerance to barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV). Poublished by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the lists include 35 new varieties, improvements to cereal lodging resistance and additional information on resistance to septoria tritici in winter wheat. AHDB recommended list manager Paul Gosling said: “Spread across the crops, dozens of new varieties are available. The improved choice includes many exciting new traits, which will help growers manage crops and target potential new markets.”

New disease ratings It follows the introduction in 2020 of a new disease rating system for cereal rusts to provide greater differentiation in scores. The latest list is similarly based on an improved calculation approach for lodging resistance. “We revised the cereal lodging ratings to help pull apart varietal differences,” said Mr Gosling. “This will make the ratings more representative of what is seen in the field and improve their consistency. Although ratings have fallen for some varieties, this is a consequence of calculation change, not an increased susceptibility to lodging.” High septoria levels last season and concern about resistance breaking down saw winter wheat disease ratings for the latest list issued early in September 2021. This saw a rating fall for many varieties. Two ratings were issued: based on 8 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

the standard three-year (2019–21) and a one-year (2021) data set. The latter ratings help reveal last season’s impact and varieties most likely to benefit from closer monitoring.

Genetic resistance New recommendations for winter wheat include varieties with an alternative genetic basis of resistance to septoria tritici, which should make useful contributions to the control of this important foliar disease. The system for oilseed rape has also been changed to make it more straightforward to recommend conventional open-pollinated varieties, which remain popular with growers, explained Mr Gosling. “There was a danger that they would be completely lost from the RL in favour of hybrid varieties. Changes to our selection procedures should help maintain the recommendation of strong conventional options.” Available for the major crop types,

more detailed variety comments illustrate how a greater diversity of options – delivered by plant breeders – has strengthened varietal traits for yield, agronomy, disease and quality.

New options are available for brewing and distilling varieties

The RL 2022/23 for wheat, barley, oats and winter oilseed rape, and variety comments, can be accessed online, alongside updated descriptive lists for spring oilseed rape, spring linseed, winter triticale and winter rye.For details, visit www.ahdb.org.uk.

Variety summary Winter wheat

Spring barley

The latest lists features two new Group 2 winter wheat bread-making varieties with strong disease resistance. These new options will help the industry spread risk. So will three new Group 3s with a different genetic basis for septoria resistance. Two new hard Group 4s show strong yields, as well as good grain quality and disease resistance. These have already generated a lot of interest. A third Group 4 also displays good disease resistance and untreated yield.

Three new spring barley varieties, under test for brewing, offer treated and untreated yield increases over the current market leaders. The spring barley list also sees a described Null-Lox variety added with specific quality traits of interest to some brewers.

Winter barley Two two-row varieties offer improvements to disease resistance and untreated yield. One of two new six-row barleys is the first conventional variety added since 2017. It offers improved grain quality and BYDV tolerance.

Winter oilseed rape Four new varieties are included in specialist categories, along with several hybrids and two conventional varieties for the UK, East/West and North regions. These varieties show improvements to yields and disease resistance.

A full commentary for crop types and varieties is included on the AHDB website at www.ahdb.org.uk.


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Arable

Lightning set to be popular choice for winter barley • Good performance and resistance • Competitive management costs • Ideal entry for early oilseed rape

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igh yields and strong disease resistance mean new two-row winter barley variety Lightning could warrant serious consideration in arable rotations. Winter barley remains one of the best entries for oilseed rape and a December ex-farm spot price of £204/t – up from £142/t a year ago – makes the crop even more attractive, says John Miles, seed technical manager for agronomy group Agrii. “Winter barley still has a massive role to play in propping up the current rape area. Given the high prices achievable for rape crops right now, growers would be wise to focus on what precedes rape in their rotations. “There’s little doubt that winter barley, with its earlier harvest date, can often make a significant difference to yield potential for a following rape crop – particularly if the objective is achieving an early drilling slot for the rape.

‘Excellent margins’ With competitive production costs relative to other crops, a 10t/ha winter barley crop can generate good net margins, says Mr Miles. But it is important to look closely at both untreated yield and overall disease package.

Of the new two-row winter varieties on the 2022/23 Recommended List, Lightning from breeder Elsoms-Ackermann has the highest untreated yield at 88%. It also has a strong overall disease profile – scoring 8 for brown rust and 7 for mildew. Mr Miles says Lightning and KWS Tardis now look a step ahead of older varieties such as KWS Orwell. “With established winter barley variety Bolton now alongside Lightning, the Elsoms-Ackermann barley pipeline is starting to gain considerable early success.”

Consistent performance Agrii national seed business manager Rodger Shirreff is similarly positive about Lightning’s prospects following its recent listing. It performed consistently across all regions in Agrii trials during 2020 and 2021, achieving a high gross output of 104% compared to controls, he says. “Lightning looks to be very sustainable, with a solid all-round package

Strong disease scores give Lightning a sharp edge.

and good standing ability. Its strong disease scores should give it a performance edge over other two-row varieties allowing for a more targeted approach on fungicide inputs. “Planned seed availability for 2022 looks good, and I believe the relative earliness of the variety combined with its manageable disease profile and ability to produce a lot of straw should make it a popular choice.”

Winter barley still has a big role to play in rotations, says John Miles.

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Arable

Trio of promising RAGT varieties promoted to Recommended List

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hree winter wheat varieties with a range of valuable traits from RAGT Seeds have been promoted to the 2022/23 AHDB Recommended List. Biscuit wheat RGT Rashid – and feed wheats RGT Bairstow and RGT Stokes – are the latest wheats to emerge from the company’s breeding pipeline. All three offer high yields, good grain quality and robust agronomic features.

Ideal for east Newcomer RGT Rashid is recommended for the eastern region. It looks to be a secure choice for growers from Yorkshire through the Midlands to the south coast, offering high yields and good premiums. Rashid achieved just over 102.1% of controls in the east – some two points clear of key competitors. It has strong, stiff straw, a strong disease profile and resistance to orange wheat blossom midge, making it an obvious successor to Firefly. Grain exceeds the minimum standard for biscuit production, putting in a solid performance over three years of official trials. It has a Hagberg Falling Number of 226 and

a good specific weight of 76.4kg/hl. RGT Rashid is a cross between Icebreaker, Solo and Cougar. It has a three-year Septoria tritici score of 6.9 and it scores 8 for yellow rust – arguably the best combination of these two diseases in the Group 3 sector.

Soft feed variety With a five-year treated mean yield of 103.1%, RGT Bairstow is the highest yielding soft feed variety on the list. In the second wheat slot, it has the highest yield of any recommended soft wheat variety at 104.3%, almost a point ahead of its nearest rival. Grain quality is good, with a Hagberg of 228 and specific weight of 75.9kg/hl. This is well above the minimum feed wheat specification and comfortably ahead of the 74kg/ hl specification that secured good premiums for soft Group 4 wheats last season. RGT Bairstow has delivered results in all regions, building on its early promise as a consistent performer. It is said to be reluctant to sprout in the ear and has resistance to orange wheat blossom midge. Parentage of Revelation, Santiago and Cougar has produced a 6.4 resistance rating for

Septoria tritici based on a three-year dataset. The variety has ratings of 7 and 6 for yellow rust and mildew respectively.

Best for west RGT Stokes has similar yield potential to RGT Bairstow, achieving 102.4% of controls in the five-year dataset. High yielding in all regions, it saves its best for the west, where it racks up a treated yield of 105.2%. The variety – a cross between Cougar, Santiago and Revelation – has a three-year Septoria tritici resistance rating of 6.9, ahead of any other soft wheat. It scores 7 for yellow rust and 5 for mildew. Seen as a replacement for some older favourites in the west, RGT Stokes also produces very big yields in the north, reflected in its official 104% rating for the region. It is likely to attract a strong following here too, thanks to its good distilling rating. Early drilling potential and the fact it makes a very good second wheat will add to its appeal. RGT Stokes is very stiff strawed when treated with PGR and exhibits good grain quality, with 248 Hagberg and 75.3kg/ ha specific weight.

RGT Rashid

RGT Bairstow

RGT Stokes

• Group 3 soft wheat • Highest yielding group 3 for the East • Good grain quality • Medium for distilling • Very good straw • Excellent disease profile • Very good Septoria tritici rating and

• • •

• Group 4 soft wheat • Highest yielding wheat for the West • Highest yielding soft feed in North trials • Impressive second wheat performance • Rated good for distilling • Good grain quality • Good rust resistance and very high

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12 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

Group 4 soft wheat Highest yielding soft feed on RL Highest second wheat yield for a soft variety • Rated good for distilling • Good grain quality • Very good all-round disease profile • High Septoria tritici rating and OWBM resistance • Suits UK and all regions

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Arable

Two more barley varieties ‘tick boxes for growers’

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ew barley varieties added to the AHDB Recommended List for 2022/23 tick a lot of boxes for growers, says breeder Syngenta. Winter hybrid feed barley SY Canyon has a UK treated yield of 106%. It has a specific weight of 71.2kg/hl – the second highest figure of all varieties on the latest winter barley list, says Syngenta seeds technical expert Ben Urquhart. High specific weight offers farmers valuable reassurance when it comes to achieving grain quality contracts, says Mr Urquhart. Consistency is key too. Yield-wise, Canyon has performed well across different growing seasons – a trait of a dependable variety, he adds. “SY Canyon also has the highest untreated yield figure on the new RL, at 89% of the treated controls. This, plus its good all-round disease resistance package, offers growers flexibility with integrated disease management.” Early maturing Canyon also has good straw strength, good brackling resistance and the highest light land yield figure on the new list. It is an attractive option for growers looking to graduate from hybrid Libra, with Libra-like specific

weight but a higher yield. Spring malting barley SY Bronte is also new to the list. Currently under evaluation for brewing, it combines a high treated yield with excellent grain quality and strong agronomic characteristics, says Syngenta seeds marketing manager Tracy Creasy.

Consistent yields Bronte has also shown consistency in its yields in different regions and over different seasons. Agronomically, it has good brackling resistance and good lodging resistance. It also has a good combination of disease resistance and untreated yield. “It looks a consistent and secure option for the future,” says Ms Creasy. Quality-wise, SY Bronte has good specific weight, low screening levels, and a very high hot water extract, she adds. “As a potential brewing variety, SY Bronte offers a valuable addition to spring barley choices going forward for growers in England.” Spring malting barley Bronte (right) also has brewing potential, says Syngenta

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Arable

Soil carbon: practical guide to make monitoring fields easy

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practical guide has been launched to help farmers assess their soil carbon in preparation for the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive. The guide lists and answers key questions for robust on-farm monitoring of soil carbon and associated indicators of soil health. It has been produced by Rothamsted Research, Duchy College, Plymouth University and the Farm Carbon Toolkit. Due to launch this year across England, the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme will reward farmers who protect and improve their soil. Success will rely on a consistent approach to soil sampling. Carbon sequestration will play a key part in climate change mitigation, says Rothamsted Research scientist Andy Neal. But the importance of soil carbon goes beyond sequestering as much as possible, he adds. “What’s much more important are the co-benefits of getting organic matter into soil – organic matter affects how much water and nutrients the soil can store, and can limit the carbon footprint.”

Sample timings Soil sampling periods are traditionally spring and autumn. Good sampling takes place at different depths: for example 0-10cm, 1030cm and 30-50cm. Whichever you choose, sample at the same time each year because seasonality affects results. The important thing is to avoid sampling after cultivation, particularly if it has been ploughed, says Becky Willson, technical director at the Farm Carbon Toolkit. Leave the fields to settle after cultivation for at least three months, she says. “If sampling just for organic matter, in theory the soil can be sampled at any time of year but be consistent with that approach. And if you’re sampling for nutrients at the same time, think about when that fits in best in rotation management.” Location When it comes to sample location, it is best to select fields which represent the variation across the farm, including differences in soil texture, cropping and management. There are three main options for sampling patterns within a field: sampling in a ‘W’ configuration, in a linear transect or a grid formulation. The guide recommends at least five sample points although 15 is preferable. Samples can be aggregated but only on a field or zone basis and they must be well mixed before bagging. In terms of equipment, a soil auger is the best implement for the job – but digging a 16 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

Samples can be stored for up to two weeks if refrigerated

hole and removing soil by hand is fine. Clean buckets and sandwich bags are also necessary for collecting the samples. Farmers should send samples off as soon as possible, although a delay of up to a fortnight is acceptable if they are refrigerated because lower temperatures slow the organic matter breakdown. There are usually two laboratory options for testing organic matter and soil carbon. The Loss on Ignition (LOI) test provides a rough idea of the soil organic carbon content and is generally cheaper. But it is not standardised between laboratories, which means it is important to use the same laboratory. The DUMAS test consists of combusting a sample of known mass to a temperature between 800-900°C in the presence of oxygen. This leads to the release of carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen. “Robust estimates of soil carbon stocks can be a complicated subject; this guide is designed in collaboration with our research partners to answer those key questions,” says Stephen Roderick of Duchy College. “In the Soil Carbon Project, we were trying to understand the relationship between farm management practices and levels of soil organic matter – as well as issues around how we monitor soil carbon.” The practical guide to soil carbon is available at www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk.

How carbon calculators can help to improve farm business resilience

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number of online tools aim to help farmers and growers measure their carbon footprint – and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Farm Carbon Toolkit is among the most comprehensive, accurate and user friendly carbon calculators. But you get out what you put in – and it can take time to input all the information required to obtain good results. Users can complete as many carbon reports as they like – useful for farmers with more than one farm, different units of land, and for consultants who want to do a report on behalf of a client.

Other calculators include the Cool Farm Tool – at www.coolfarmtool.org. Developed by Aberdeen University, it gives farmers an easy indication about where their emissions are coming from. It takes just 10-15 minutes to get a rough estimate of a farm’s carbon footprint by entering information off the top of your head. This estimate can then be refined using information from farm records. The AgreCalc tool – at www.agrecalc.com – was developed by SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College. It helps assess feasible ways to for farmers and the supply chain to lower carbon emissions.


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Arable

State-of-the-crop poll confirms better rape crops • Good establishment last autumn • Lower pressure from flea beetle • Fewer growers using insecticide

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etter established oilseed rape varieties going into winter bode well for spring performance, suggests a state-of-the-crop poll. The online Dekalb study conducted by Bayer Crop Science involved 170 growers with more than 15,000ha of winter oilseed rape plantings spread across the UK’s main arable areas – including East Anglia and the East Midlands. More than 60% of plantings were reported to be better established than 2020 – over half of these much better – while just 11% of crops were considered by growers to have got off to a worse start. But regional variations were fairly high, with fewer farmers in eastern England and the Midlands reporting better establishment – and some growers saying that their crops have fared worse than last year. Even so, more than 40% of eastern region growers rated their crop establishment as better and half of these as much better, says Dekalb technical specialist Richard Williams, who co-ordinated the study.

Encouraging position Mr Williams says there are several key reasons for what he described as an encouraging position. “First and foremost, cabbage stem flea beetle pressure at establishment appeared to be far less severe for most this season.” Almost 60% of growers reported little or no challenge from the pest. This compares with just over 40% and less than 20% of growers in the previous two years of Bayer’s national flea beetle management study. Reduced flea beetle pressure was linked with earlier drilling. Some 55% of growers drilled their crops before 20 August 20 compared to 45% in 2020 and 31% in 2019. At the same time, only 15% of growers planted in September, down from 30% previously. Flea beetle pressure increased

throughout the main drilling window. Three quarters of growers sowing on or before the first week of August reported little or no challenge against 45% of those sowing in the traditional midlate August drilling window. There is a clear association between establishment success and flea beetle pressure, says Mr Williams. Crops suffering high pressure scored 5.8 out of 10 – but those seeing little or no pressure averaged 8.3. While the main place for hybrid varieties has traditionally been in the later drilling slot, greater use of hybrids in earlier sowing for their establishment vigour and early growth rate advantages is another critical success factor. Excluding Clearfield, clubroot resistant, HOLL and HEAR types for a fair comparison, the proportion of hybrids and conventional varieties sown on or before 20 August this season was remarkably similar at around 55%. Other than earlier drilling and the use of vigorous fast-developing hybrids, the extent to which growers employ the most popular establishment management techniques is also impor-

Growers reported fewer problems with cabbage stem flea beetle [photo credit: Dr Tom Pope, Harper Adams University]

Flea beetle pressure was far less severe

tant in getting crops out of the ground successfully. Almost one third of growers are deliberately encouraging predators by avoiding insecticides. And, of those still using them, lower pest pressures last autumn meant a further third didn’t need to spray at establishment.

Little value Altogether, only 45% of growers used an establishment insecticide this season – most of them just the one spray. Results were little different, adding weight to the argument that insecticides are generally of little value in combating flea beetle. “It may be early days yet for the crop, but given the critical importance of establishment to its success, we are particularly encouraged by this year’s poll findings,” says Mr Williams. “Earlier drilling does bring its own share of spring management challenges. But the fact that flea beetle pressure was so much lower than the past two seasons leaves us hopeful that serious larval damage won’t be a challenge for most growers.”

To delay or not to delay… that is the question

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lmost 40% of oilseed rape growers drilled their 2022 crops in late July or early August, with another 20% delaying planting until after the main cabbage stem flea beetle migration period has taken place. The Twitter poll was carried out by crop protection company Adama. Of the 238 people who responded, some 42% said they had no set date in mind and would let the weather dictate when drill-

ing can commence. “Deciding when to drill oilseed rape is always a tricky conundrum – not least because of the need to balance the costs of ensuring the crop establishes viably against its overall profitability,” said Adama herbicide technical specialist Bill Lankford (pictured). “Essentially there’s no right or wrong answer as no two farms are the same and neither are any two rotational strategies. Instead, growers

must weigh up the pros and cons of drilling early versus the benefits of waiting until after the flea beetle migration has taken place.

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 19


Arable

Mayflower sets sail for successful 2022 Group 2 variety Mayflower boasts the highest septoria resistance rating for a recommended milling wheat

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firm focus on sustainability means newly recommended Group 2 milling wheat Mayflower should be of interest to growers, says breeder Elsoms Seeds. The variety has the highest septoria resistance rating for a milling wheat – suitable to a reduced fungicide programme based on recommended list data, says Milika Buurman, the company’s head of wheat breeding. Mayflower has a good disease package, a high untreated yield of 90% and the ability to produce a higher protein percentage in its grain compared to most other varieties grown at the same nitrogen rates, she adds. “Mayflower’s sustainability creden-

tials are hard to ignore,” says Ms Buurman. Although not the highest yielding Group 2 milling wheat list, the variety sets the bar on resistance to Septoria tritici – a major disease threat, she adds.

Targeted approach “Overall disease resistance, including genes conferring resistance to soil borne wheat mosaic virus and eyespot, is excellent and should allow farmers growing Mayflower a far more targeted approach on fungicide inputs.” The variety has a specific weight of 78.5kg/hl and a Hagberg Falling Number of 294. With excellent breadmaking potential, Mayflower is currently

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Main picture Mayflower’s credentials are hard to ignore, says Milika Buurman (inset) Above David Huish: Good choice

under test with millers and produced better loaf volumes than Group 1 controls in official tests. ADAS arable crop pathologist Chloe Morgan identified Mayflower as one of only four varieties on the RL deemed suitable for a reduced fungicide pro-

Early vigour “Having followed Mayflower’s progress in trials closely, its early vigour and speed of development after growth stage 31 enabling it to suppress grass weeds was head and shoulders above virtually all other varieties.” Mayflower is versatile and can be drilled as either a first or second wheat – on heavy or light soils. It offers great flexibility on drilling dates with a latest sowing date of mid-February, says Mr Huish. “Although everyone has latched on to the high Septoria rating, it also has a 9 for yellow rust and no real agronomic weaknesses. It is an excellent choice for growers looking for genetic diversity, and and extremely robust with potential for a premium.”

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Arable

‘Postcode lottery’ warning over government soil carbon scheme

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armers face a ‘postcode lottery’ following government plans to reward growers and livestock producers for increasing their soil carbon. Geological history – which determines the type of soil found on a farm – will make capturing more carbon “nigh on impossible” for some farmers, say Andrew Neal and David Powlson of Rothamsted Research. “If you farm on sandy soils – as is the case for farmers in places such as Bedfordshire or Nottinghamshire – then you will struggle to increase the carbon content of your soil,” says Prof Neal. “You might be doing all the right things to increase the carbon flowing through your soil – but it won’t show up when they come to test your soil.” Common ways to improve soil carbon include the addition of manures or crop residues, growing cover crops in the winter and the rearing of grazing livestock and crops together.

New scheme Due to launch later this year, the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive will see farmers paid to manage their farms such environmentally friendly practices, including regenerative agriculture techniques such as cover crops. Prof Neal says the problem is that the potential for carbon sequestration is strongly influenced by soil type – particularly texture – and the starting carbon content. Both will be a legacy of past farming practices. “Changes in soil carbon in response to alterations in management practice occur slowly,” he explains.”It’s also difficult to measure the likely small changes in soil carbon within a short time period.” Indicators such as soil microbial biomass are useful in showing whether organic carbon is increasing or decreasing – but Prof Neil says such measurements provide neither an estimate of soil carbon stocks, nor a prediction of absolute changes in carbon. Alternative system Prof Neal and Prof Powlson propose an alternative system that measures the flow of carbon through soil, rather than the actual amount in soil at a given time – described as a “dynamic rather than static” view of soil. “If a system of policy requirements

Carbon sequestration potential depends largely on location

or financial incentives for increasing soil carbon is to be instituted, we propose an alternative approach using carbon models to predict probable changes in soil carbon” Prof Neal says this would take account of the farmer’s soil type, local climate, cropping practices and starting soil carbon content. This could be combined with closer monitoring at a network of benchmark sites.” Careful thought needs to go into de-

Some farmers will struggle to increase soil carbon.

signing replacements for current EU farm subsidies, adds Prof Powlson, as there are formidable challenges to doing this in ways that are both fair and practical. “Several ‘early warning’ methods may be successful in detecting whether or not a soil is increasing its carbon content – and this is helpful. But they will probably not provide direct evidence of the absolute change in total carbon that has occurred.”

Some soil holds more carbon than others

Payments for soil improvements

Soil organic matter contains about 50% carbon and influences virtually all soil properties – with some soils able to hold more carbon than others. Rothamsted Research says soil structure is affected by the processing of organic matter inputs by soil microbes as metabolites form associations with mineral particles. The resulting structure in turn impacts oxygen diffusion through the soil and the microbial processing of carbon and other nutrients important for crop and livestock nutrition. “Imaging of pore networks clearly shows how a clay-rich soil adapts to differences in organic inputs, but a sandy soil shows little adaptation,” says Prof Neal. “The physical structure and resulting changes in biological activity, are less influenced by organic inputs in sandy soils. This is consistent with the observation that sandy soils have much less capacity to sequester carbon than soils of finer texture.”

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will bring together a range of actions that farmers can take to deliver improved outcomes for the environment. Initially, farmers will be able to select from three standards – Arable and Horticultural Soils, Improved Grassland Soils, and Moorland and Rough Grazing. The Arable and Horticultural Soils standard offers between £22-£40/ha and includes activities such as testing of soil organic matter. The Improved Grassland Soils standard offers between £28-£58/ha for activity including producing a soil management plan or herbal leys on at least 15% of land. The Moorland and Rough Grazing standard offers £148 fixed per agreement per year, plus an additional variable payment rate of £6.45/ha. Farmers will be able to access up to £58/ha for improving soils from later this year. As the rollout progresses, the government will introduce further standards.

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 23


Arable

Morley Farms bids to cut pesticide impact

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armers could benefit from wellplanned management changes that reduce the unwanted environmental impact of agrochemicals, suggests a study. Changes to variety, rotation and spray choices can all offer significant opportunities to minimise the unintended impact of crop protection products, according to the Morley Agricultural Foundation in Norfolk. Morley Farms manager David Jones worked with Agrii specialist and Nuffield scholar Mark Dewes as part of the Green Horizons Initiative – basing their approach on the Treatment Frequency Index (TFI) originally developed in Denmark. The TFI measures the number of full rate equivalent applications of each product used per hectare, explains Mr Dewes. It is quick and easy to calculate from existing field records – and can help growers optimise spray usage.

Adding weightings for specific products from the Harmonised Risk Indicator (HRI) system used within the EU further helps growers assess the relative potential impact of different active ingredients. “This effectively means fewer ‘points’ for the more environmentally benign products [included] in the calculation,” says Mr Dewes.

Field records Applying these metrics to three years of Morley Farms field records shows the annual farm Treatment Frequency Index varying between 5.3 to 6.4 and averaging 6.0 – indicating an average of six full rate equivalent pesticide applications per hectare. Weighting the applications for their ads.qxp_Layout 09:06 Page 16 relative potential harm gives an av-1 16/05/2019 Mark Dewes (left) and David Jones erage three-year HRI-adjusted ratdiscuss the new pesticide metrics used ing of 6.9. by Morley Farms More interesting perhaps in plan-

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ning improvements are the differences the metrics reveal between individual crops. Combinable winter crops typically have much greater TFIs than spring-planted crops – although these differences reduce with the HRI metric. Oilseed rape stands out as a high impact crop on both measures. Agrii says it is no coincidence that dropping oilseed rape from the Morley rotation was accompanied by a reduction of around 20% in both TFI and HRI in 2020. Within individual crop calculations, the HRI-adjusted metric highlights the relative impact of the different classes of crop protection products. Herbicides have the highest impact, followed by insecticides then fungicides, with PGRs and molluscides the lowest. “As part of the Morley Agricultural Foundation (TMAF), our farming is closely interwoven with research and education,” explains Mr Jones. “Working hard to limit the environmental impact of everything we do, we are passionate about minimising the unintended consequences of the inputs essential in our cropping

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with the best-informed Integrated Pest Management (IPM).” Mr Jones says pesticide use will always vary between seasons depending on rotation, crop condition and pest pressure. But the rolling three- or fiveyear HRI average should be a good indicator of how well pesticide impact is being moderated.

Useful measures “Alongside margin, it could be a really useful measure of individual crop and farm performance for us. Especially if we calculate it on a per tonne basis to reflect the increased need for and value of crop protection in supporting higher production. “Knowing the relative pesticide impact of our different crops from past experience also provides us with additional intelligence to take into account in our rotational planning.” Mr Jones adds: “Having the new metric as a standard in our crop performance monitoring would give us a really good measure of pesticide impact to take into account in our improvement efforts. It would allow us to set targets for reducing our reliance on pesticides.”

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Spring crop management Warning over fertiliser as nitrogen prices soar • Disruption in supplies to continue • Remain vigilant to potential theft • Store fertiliser securely on farm

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armers are being reminded of their responsibilities when it comes to purchasing and securely storing nitrogen-based fertiliser ahead of the spring. Soaring fertiliser prices have seen the potential for excess stocks stored on farms, says the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) and AIC Services, which manages the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS). “As high global gas prices push up the cost of nitrogen-based fertilisers, we are aware that some farmers are facing difficult decisions about crop feeding plans this winter and the coming spring,” says FIAS technical manager Roberta Reeve. “This is of particular concern where farmers don’t have sufficient stock or orders in the pipeline to cover their needs, since the disruption to the fertiliser supply chain could continue into spring 2022.”

Theft warning Mrs Reeve said one area of concern is that high prices could lead to increased

Roberta Reeve: illegitimate purposes

fertiliser thefts. “Light-hearted comments on social media about selling excess stock of fertiliser may appear harmless, [but] this may draw attention of the situation to criminals.” She added: “There is a risk of nitrogen-based fertilisers being used for illegitimate purposes, and anyone handling or storing these products has a responsibility to provide secure storage and to remain vigilant to potential theft.”

Illegal sales Farmers can make best use of their available stocks of fertiliser by seeking advice from a FACTS qualified adviser. Where cropping plans have changed and excess stocks are no longer needed, re-selling fertiliser is an option but must be done properly.

That means a return to the original supplier and refund or re-sale. It is illegal to sell ammonium nitrate without the correct documentation and fertilisers should not be advertised on auction sites, local trade magazines or social media. Mrs Reeve further reminds farmers not to purchase fertiliser unless the source is known and documentation is correct. “Sellers should be FIAS approved, and you can check this on the assurance scheme website. You can also check with your FACTS adviser. “Everyone in the industry should be alert to the potential misuse and missale of nitrogen-based fertiliser by reporting suspicious activity or sales to the police.” For advice on getting the best return on investment for fertiliser, see p34

Five-point safety plan Farmers storing fertiliser into spring should remind themselves of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office’s five-point plan for secure storage:

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JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 27


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Spring crop management

Top spring oat variety Merlin casts spell on growers

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pring oat variety Merlin is a new all-rounder for both miller and farmer – combining good yields, with quality and disease resistance, says UK agent Cope Seeds & Grain. New to the Recommended List for 2022/23, early maturing Merlin has the lowest screening losses of any spring oat variety. It also has decent disease resistance – including a score of 8 for mildew, says Gemma Clarke of Cope Seeds. “Merlin spring oat is suited to all regions in the UK. It delivers consistency and quality to millers, due to its high specific weight and high kernel content and it has the lowest screening losses of any oat variety on the list.” It performs exceptionally well when grown organically or conventionally with good standing ability. For farmers looking to farm more environmentally with fewer inputs, Merlin has exceptional disease resistance. Arable farmer Richard Monk says Merlin established well in 2020. Despite catchy weather, it was standing well when combined on 22 August last

year, yielding 7.42t/ha. “This was a better yield than the other spring oat variety we were growing,” he says. “For 2021 harvest we were encouraged by the 2020 results to increase our area of Merlin. Like all oat and barley combining for 2021 harvest conditions were difficul but Merlin has held its own.” Philip Rayner at oat milk manufacturer Glebe Farm Foods in Cambridgeshire is positive about Merlin too. “Kernel content is very

Spring oat Merlin is proving popular, says Gemma Clarke

good and dehulling looks suitable. The screenings were low and the bushel weight was very good. “We look forward to trialling Merlin through the mill in the next few weeks. We buy a great deal of organic gluten-free oats for export and the UK and are very keen to support improved varieties for growers and millers.”

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 29


Spring crop management

Spotlight on spring cereal crop options Spring cereal varieties need careful selection. Dick Neale and David Bouch of Hutchinsons look at the options

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etter conditions were a welcome relief for growers looking to establish winter crops last autumn. But spring crops remain important in many farm rotation – for agronomic, financial and logistical reasons. For growers still to decide which spring crops and varieties to sow, Hutchinsons technical manager Dick Neale and national seeds manager David Bouch highlight some options.

Spring barley Barley remains the leading spring cropping option in many regions, especially those supplying malting, distilling and animal feed sectors. In recent years spring barley has also become a go-to option in less traditional areas among growers tackling blackgrass. “That’s still the situation, especially as there will be some fields that have taken a backwards step for blackgrass control after the difficult conditions we’ve experienced in recent seasons,” says Mr Neale. “If you’re growing spring barley for blackgrass control on heavy clay soil, don’t rush out and get a malting contract then apply malting barley principles developed on predominantly light land. “For blackgrass control, focus on maximising yield and crop competition, which in turn will dilute grain nitrogen and can still make a good malting sample.” Pushing for yield does not necessarily require a lot of nitrogen – typically around 120 kg N/ha. But it does mean early drilling at higher seed rates into good conditions and a robust programme of fungicides and growth regulators, he notes. In terms of varieties, Mr Bouch says the main options are largely unchanged from last year, with Laureate, LG Diablo and RGT Planet leading the way on yield, quality and acceptance by end users. “Yield, specific weight and screenings are all pretty similar, although Laureate performed exceptionally well last year. We’ve seen several new varieties come through, but none add much 30 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

Group 1 spring wheat variety Mulika remains a firm favourite, says David Bouch (right) Barley is still the leading spring crop, says Dick Neale (below)

Spring wheat agronomy has greatly improved

in terms of yield and most still need end user backing.” Newcomer Skyway is interesting given a 4-5% yield advantage over established favourites. But at the time of writing, it was still being evaluated for brewing use. Likewise SY Splendor and SY Tungsten, which joined the Recommended List last year, also offer slightly higher yields, but still only have provisional MBC approval.

Spring wheat Big improvements have been seen in spring wheat agronomy in recent years, with many growers achieving good results. The crop is an efficient user of nitrogen, with most spring milling varieties able to achieve 13.5% protein from around half the applied nitrogen usually required by winter milling wheat, says Mr Neale. Given spring wheat’s low tillering capacity, he believes success depends on high seed rates to ensure a strong established plant population and reduce the risk of ergot infection during flowering. Generally this means sow-

ing 500-600 seeds/m2, which should produce yields of around 8 t/ha. Group 1 variety Mulika is still a firm favourite, despite 20 years on the RL. Group 2 KWS Cochise picked up decent market share in 2021 and is likely to be popular again next spring, says Mr Bouch. KWS Giraffe generated much interest when it joined the RL in 2020. But limited seed availability meant a small market share, which is set to increase this spring. “It has the protein and specific weight growers need, and although yield isn’t the highest, it’s still almost 10% better than Mulika.” KWS Chilham is another Group 2 worth considering, while several familiar Group 4s attract support for growers going for out-and-out yield although proteins are less exciting.

Spring oats The UK spring oat area remains relatively small, so seed volumes are limited and tend to sell out most seasons. But the crop provides a relatively cheap partial break from wheat and barley and can be highly competitive against blackgrass, says Mr Neale. “It doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen, and disease-wise, the main focus is on keeping out mildew and rust, which should be fairly straightforward with existing chemistry. Standing ability is not too bad providing you adopt a sensible PGR programme.” Mr Bouch says WPB Isabel is one of the biggest selling spring oat varieties, and is likely to remain popular given its yield and quality, closely followed by Canyon. Newcomer Merlin is attracting attention for its quality, so is worth considering, he adds.


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Spring crop management

Why peas could take place of sugar beet on Norfolk farm • • •

Straightforward crop to grow Valuable nitrogen fixing ability Aviator variety has good yields

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Norfolk grower plans to double his area of peas this spring – and says the crop could replace sugar beet on his farm. David Wroth included peas in the rotation for the first time last season at Bell Farm, Docking. The seed crop of large blue pea LG Aviator was drilled on 22 March last year for local breeder Limagrain UK. “There have been pea trials on the farm before, but we have never grown a crop commercially as it were,” says Mr Wroth. “The key was not rushing to drill in the spring until conditions were suitable.”

Single pass The variety proved really straightforward to grow. It was established using a single pass with a Cousins Patriot combination cultivator and then drilled with a Horsch Pronto drill at a seed rate of 90/m². “Season-long the crop looked good,” says Mr Wroth. “We had no disease issues and it stood well. It flowered earlier than other local varieties, quite noticeably by as much as two-three weeks. Most of the pods formed at the top of the plant which made for an easier harvest.” Mr Wroth says he set a target date for harvesting the crop and stuck to it. “That’s the key with harvesting peas I think. Last year we harvested the peas on 12-13 August.” Flexibility Even so, not being such a large farm, there is the advantage of a certain amount of flexibility at harvest. “We didn’t come away with the highest yields in the world, but considering the season, we were pleased as they averaged out 3.5-4 t/ha.” The plan is that if the peas continue to do well, we may increase the area year on year – reducing the sugar beet 32 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

David Wroth: pea convert Top: LG Avator has a good agronomic package.

in the rotation and eventually replacing the 40ha or so of beet currently grown on the farm. “In the current scenario of very high nitrogen fertiliser prices, the nitrogen fixing ability of the peas is very valuable,” says Mr Wroth.

We had no disease issues and it stood well

Aviator flies onto PGRO list LG Aviator will join the PGRO Descriptive List this year, as a fully recommended variety with a yield of 100% over control. The high yield is because LG Aviator is a multi-podded variety type, says Limagrain pulse breeder Will Pillinger. “For each node that LG Aviator produces, there are three pods,” Mr Pillinger explains. “This means there are more pods at the top of the plant rather than spread through the plant, making for a more even maturity with less competition for light – and this is a significant characteristic in building yield.” This new type of manageable green pea variety makes planning

pesticide and nutrient applications far easier than conventional semi-indeterminate types. It also applies for predicting the harvest period – another useful trait. Agronomically, there is much to like about the variety, says Mr Pillinger. “LG Aviator scores 8 for resistance to downey mildew and is highly resistant to powdery mildew. It’s early, and has good ratings for standing ability and straw length. “It’s one of the best agronomic packages of any other provisionally rated varieties. Suitable for both human consumption and for animal protein, all of this makes for a very exciting variety and one that should perform well for UK growers.”



Spring crop management

How to get the best from spring fertiliser Careful planning will help ensure the best return on investment from nitrogen

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ky-rocketing gas prices mean growers should consider how best to plan nitrogen applications cost-effectively this spring. With nitrogen and urea both reaching record highs, fertiliser manufacturer Yara is advising farmers to adopt best practice on applications – and derive the best possible return on investment.

ARABLE The standard N-response curve shows that the best return on winter wheat comes from the first 100kg of nitrogen, which produced a yield increase of 2.7t/ha, says Natalie Wood, Yara agronomy operations manager. “The next 60kg increased that yield by 0.77t/ha – less than half that of the first 100kg applied. The final 60kg gives us 0.38t/ha. Ordinarily, we would push for that extra, small response. However, current prices may change your decision.” To illustrate that choice, Ms Wood takes three different scenarios: farmers who purchased fertiliser early (paying about £280 a tonne), those who purchased or will purchase late (at £700 a tonne) and those who split their purchases between the two timeframes. “For the early buyer, no real change is necessary, and they can still push for yields,” says Ms Wood. “Those who split their purchase will want to average the two prices. The margin is still highest at the 220kg rate but not significantly different to 160kg, so you probably want to apply somewhere between 180-200kgN/ha. For the late buyer, they need to think differently, the best margin now drops to 160kgN/ha. You might want to go up to 180kg, but certainly no lower than 160kg. Once in spring, you can re-evaluate and look at the crop’s potential and crop and fertiliser pricing.”

SPRING BARLEY Looking at long-term data for spring barley from 2011-2021, the first 80kgN/ha gives the best response. The next 80kg still offers ROI but only 0.86T increased yield per hectare compared to the 3.0 of that first 80kg. Therefore the three different buying times follow a similar pattern to wheat with the early buyer continuing as normal, the 50:50 buyer dropping their rate slightly and 34 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

Above Nitrogen remains a key input – despite record prices Below Natalie Wood and Philip Cosgrave

the late buyer will now be looking at 80-120kgN/ha (spring barley for feed).

OILSEED RAPE For oilseed rape, the advice isn’t too different from normal. “Applying NPKS little and often will result in optimum productivity,” says Natalie. “You’re aiming to get 3.5 GAI in the spring with optimum amounts of nitrogen and


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that will be the same this year. “This year, Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) is even more critical than usual,” says Natalie. “Sulphur is vital for uptake – even a slight deficiency will start to affect the plant’s capability of utilising applied nitrogen. “You can also use smart tools and variable rate applications to make sure you’re creating an even, homogenous crop that’s easier to harvest with less lodging and increased overall efficiency of production.”

GRASSLAND Many farmers will be looking to reduce fertiliser applications in 2022 in a bid to offset the impact of high fertiliser prices. But Yara country grassland agronomist Philip Cosgrave saysthis needs to be carefully considered. Lower nitrogen rates means less grass grown and if grass/forage demand is the same then any shortfall in feed will have to be purchased. Also, reducing fertiliser nitrogen rates doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper silage. “If a farmer was to lower their first cut their nitrogen rate by 20kg/ha, the knock on effect would be a reduction in yield of 2t/ha,” says Mr Cosgrave. “The cost per ha goes down, but not the cost of each tonne produced as much of the cost in growing a first cut are fixed on an area basis not on yield.” “Each farmer will be in a different position, regarding the scope to reduce fertiliser applications, but there are ways in which we can mitigate some of the costs by looking at using manures to better effect.” Continued overleaf

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Spring crop management Continued from previous page First, Mr Cosgrave says growers should test slurry properly. “Typically, book values are used but they’re only an average. Testing analysis may show there’s more nitrogen in your slurry than the RB209 book value which then means there is scope to reduce fertiliser applications without a yield penalty.” Mr Cosgrave also discusses optimising slurry application rates. By shifting to spring, it’s possible to improve nitrogen availability by 0.26kg/m³. The right equipment can also help; using a trailing shoe increases nitrogen availability by 0.1kg/m³. “With grazing, the first application is the riskiest. Be careful where that N is being applied – don’t just make a blanket application. Look at soil temperatures and pick out early parts of your farm where you’re likely to get the best response to early nitrogen.”

More than half the varieties screened in 2021 were resistant

PLANNING AHEAD Ultimately, it’s about careful planning and taking the right decisions to make sure every cost incurs a satisfactory result, whatever your unique circumstances may be, says Yara head of agronomy Mark Tucker. “Whatever price you paid for nitrogen or are about to, make use of all the tools and services available. Drill into your numbers and do some careful calculations so that you can maintain return on investment. “That’s what it’s all about, keeping that number as high as possible.”

All available tools should be used to make the most of applied nitrogen 36 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

Yellow rust survey aids T0 timing on wheat

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rowers are advised to use findings from a key pathogen survey when deciding their T0 spray timings for winter wheat this spring. It follows results from the annual UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) on the resistance of young winter wheat plants to yellow rust – which is conducted on AHDB Recommended Lists (RL) varieties. The latest update found that more than half of the varieties tested were resistant at the youngplant stage. Growers should use this information alongside RL disease resistance ratings to adapt spray programmes in 2022, particularly at the T0 spray timing. UKCPVS project lead Charlotte Nellist said: “The pathogen that causes yellow rust is complex; some varieties are susceptible to the disease when plants are young but go on to develop some level of resistance after early stem extension. “However, if young plants are susceptible and the RL disease resistance rating is also low, crops will require closer monitoring for active rust over the winter period.”

How it works The screens use five pathogen isolates selected to best represent the diversity in the yellow rust population at the time of testing. A variety is classified as susceptible at the young-plant stage if it is sufficiently susceptible to any one of the isolates. Dr Nellist said: “The 2010s saw large changes in the UK yellow rust population, resulting in

numerous reductions in resistance, at both the young-plant and adult-plant stages.” Only three varieties were recorded as having young-plant stage resistance in 2016. Since then, the situation has improved somewhat, with over half the varieties screened in 2021 classed as resistant during these early stages. Relatively few yellow rust samples were received by the UKCPVS team in 2021, with 155 samples sent in from 54 varieties and 19 counties. This was about half the number recorded in 2020.

Regional snapshot The reduction is probably due to last year’s cool, dry spring, which helped reduce wheat yellow rust pressure,” said Dr Nellist. “Similarly, for brown rust, only 10 samples were received.” Dr Nellist said it was important for growers and agronomists to send in material, irrespective of the disease pressure. It helps us provide a regional snapshot of the pathogen population and serves as a basis for early warnings of population change. “While we cannot test every sample, we do preserve and archive all isolates, which provides an essential reference library for pathogen virulence research.” The latest cereal pathogen developments, both in the UK and globally, will be in focus at the annual UKCPVS stakeholder meeting in the first week of March. For full details, visit ahdb.org.uk/ukcpvs


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Spring crop management

Lynx roars to top of descriptive list

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onsistent performance has seen spring bean Lynx ranked the highest yielding variety on the latest Descriptive List from the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO). Lynx also has has high resistance to downy mildew. Other spring varieties from LS Plant Breeding – including early maturing Ghengis and high thousand seed weight Macho – are close to Lynx in their yield levels. Fanfare and Vertigo continue with high yields and good agronomic characteristics. Yukon spring beans have the highest Downy mildew resistance rating and a high thousand seed weight – all a benefit for growers. LSPB says its group of low vicine/ convicine (LVC) spring bean varieties, such as Victus, have low levels of these anti-nutritional factors. This allows higher inclusion rates in pig and poultry diets with yields that are com-

38 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

parable to traditional types. LSPB managing director Chris Guest says: “The new PGRO 2022 Descriptive Lists continue to show the improvement of all pulse varieties in the key areas of yield, agronomic characters and marketability.” These characteristics will help further develop the UK pulse crop in a post-Brexit, net-zero farming world, says Mr Guest. LSPB pulse varieties once again are a strong part of these improvements, he adds. “To give three examples – the consistent yield of Lynx brings it to the very top of the spring bean yield table, Carrington is top of the combining pea yield table, while our marrowfat Akooma is 10% higher yielding than the closest variety on the list.” Carrington is the top yielding combining pea on the PGRO list with high standing ability and good resistance to Downy mildew. It will be available

for spring 2022 sowing – joining market-leading Bluetime and Stroma. Greenwich and Blueman both offer high yields only a few points below the top varieties, with each bringing different benefits in key characters such as earliness of maturity, standing ability and downy mildew resistance.

Lynx is the highest yielding spring bean on the list


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Spring crop management

Growers advised to tissue test crops to optimise fertiliser applications

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rowers forced to cut back on NPK fertilisers are being advised to tissue test crops for nutritional deficiencies as spring approaches. High fertiliser prices and short supplies could exacerbate already deficient soil situations – with phosphorus and potassium shown to be lacking, says Chris Bond, commercial technical manager for crop nutrition at FMC. Extensive tissue testing at FMC has seen phosphorus deficiencies rise from 5% in 2019 to 16% in 2021. It has also highlighted an increase in potassium deficiencies – rising from 31% in 2019 to 54% in 2021. “With the shortages of NPK fertilisers, phosphorus and potassium deficiencies this year could rise even higher,” says Mr Bond. As a result crops could suffer, particularly in early spring, when cold and wet soils make it harder for plants to access soil nutrients.

Root growth “Phosphorus is an important nutrient for crops as it forms the energy source of the crop as ATP. This means it encourages good establishment and root growth and will be required in the spring to get crops moving again after winter dormancy. “Potassium is also vital as it is involved in water management and the transport of nutrients around the plant, improving overall crop quality

and health.” To combat the problems associated with fertiliser shortages, Mr Bond advises all growers to work with their agronomist and carry out tissue testing now and into the early spring period. Tissue testing can provide a better understanding of whole crop nutrition at crucial points in the growth cycle. If it highlights a defi-

Foliar applications can help combat nutrient deficiencies, says Chris Bond.

ciency of either phosphorus or potassium, growers can make foliar applications of the nutrients to top up levels in the plant. “Foliar applications can be particularly effective if the crop is struggling to access sufficient nutrient during periods of rapid growth,” says Mr Bond, helping to combat any issues arising from NPK fertiliser shortages.

New delivery channel for vegetable seeds

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yngenta Vegetable Seeds has announced a new dedicated UK distribution channel, to assure growers receive timely delivery of their orders for the 2022 season. The new system will operate from Dalton Seeds at Eye, near Peterborough. It will take advantage of the company’s cereal seeds distribution network with expertise in storing and moving high-quality seed on to farms efficiently and conveniently. Syngenta vegetable seeds manager Kris Goen said Brexit had posed

40 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

significant challenges in supplying the UK from the company’s state-of-theart seed processing and storage facility in Enkhuizen, Holland. “We are committed to providing UK growers with the highest levels of service,” said Ms Goen. “This new partnership with a dedicated specialist storage and logistics service, holding a full season’s seed stocks, will ensure the availability and supply of the exciting Syngenta vegetable variety range in time for the new growing season.”

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Muck & Slurry ‘Ludicrous’ manure rules must be changed, say farm leaders • All but impossible to abide by rules • Environment Agency upholds ban • MPs to investigate agency decision

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Ps are to investigate the Environment Agency’s approach to restrictions on autumn manure and slurry spreading. The agency’s attempt to impose what amounts to a blanket ban on the autumn application of organic manures has been roundly criticised by farming organisations, water companies and an influential committee of MPs. Neil Parish MP, chairman of the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee, demanded an explanation from Environment Agency chief executive James Bevan – who insists the ban is justified to prevent pollution. The agency’s interpretation of the government’s Farming Rules for Water makes it all but impossible for farmers to apply manure to fields. Farmers must demonstrate a crop’s need for nitrogen, ensure there is no pollution risk and tell the agency muck is being applied.

Evidence session A planned oral evidence session will be held within the next few weeks. But some groups – including the Tenant Farmers Association – have already made written submissions to the inquiry. The association says the vast majority of farmers follow good practice in the management and use of organic manures to avoid pollution – although it accepts that there is some bad practice among a minority. TFA chief executive George Dunn says the association would support stricter enforcement against individuals who break the rules because they threaten the reputation of the whole of industry. But he says simply raising the regulatory bar and imposing blanket is not the solution. “Those who break the law or refuse to follow good practice will continue to do so while all those who have been op-

erating responsibly will end up with the additional costs of compliance,” says the TFA submission.

Manure storage The NFU says the Farming Rules For Water are often discussed in regard to arable crops. But it says livestock and dairy farmers are becoming in-

creasingly anxious about the implications for manure storage capacity this winter. NFU livestock board chair Richard Findlay said: “It seems ludicrous that the Environment Agency – although well intentioned – is looking to restrict how we apply and use one of our most valuable resources. “I know as land managers we have a responsibility to protect our watercourses from pollution, but these rules are at odds with many other government policies and our own ambition of becoming net zero by 2040.”

These rules are at odds with other policies

Interpretation of the rules has been widely criticised

Holistic approach ‘crucial’ on ammonia

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orcing farmers to spread more manures in the warmer summer months could increase ammonia emissions from agriculture, says the NFU. “From what we have seen so far, we are not sure that Defra or the Environment Agency are thinking this through,” says NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes. “It’s crucial that government take a holistic approach when considering legislation.” Like others, Mr Oakes says policymakers should carefully consider the potential effects and costs to agriculture and indeed the environment when devising new rules or interpreting existing legislation.

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JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 43


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A Landia chopper pump is playing a vital role in the use of slurry as fertiliser at an organic dairy farm in Lancashire. Using energy captured from solar panels at the all-electric 100ha farm, the 7.5kW pump transfers slurry more than 500m from the main dry cow house to the external lagoon saving fuel and labour. “First, we tried a diesel pump but the process was costly and took up way too much time,” says Ian Pye from Old Holly Farm near Garstang. Every drop of slurry is important to us, so we wanted a simple and long-lasting solution.”

Mr Pye says he expected the Landia system to be too expensive. But five years on, he says it was good value for money. “Compared to scooping up slurry with a tractor and then transporting it, sending it directly to the lagoon with a decent pump is a no-brainer.” When manure from the farm’s 140 cows is particularly thick, it is moved 100m to the lagoon in the yard. But most of the time the Landia Chopper Pump sends the slurry straight to the lagoon. Continually breaking down solid particles, the pump’s knife system prevents harmful debris from

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entering the pump’s casing, so it remains clog-free. “All we’ve ever needed for the pump has been a new float switch, which is very good going,” says Mr Pye. “Some companies can make the supply of spares

Ian Pye at Old Holly Farm

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MUCK & SLURRY

How to make the most of your muck Farmers can save £451/ha for every 40 tonnes of cattle muck applied to fields, says Michelle Nuttall

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iven soaring fertiliser prices and tightening regulations, making the most of muck is increasingly important, listeners were told during a recent webinar hosted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. The webinar saw AHDB senior environment scientist James Holmes and ADAS principal soil scientist Lizzie Sagoo explain ways farmers can maximise nutrient content when using muck for crop nutrition.

Applying organic matter Key reminders from Mr Holmes were that RB209 is for growers as guidance only. But growers must abide by the law. And with the winter months now here, protecting water quality is of primary concern when spreading slurry and manures. The legal requirement to protect water quality restricts growers to organic material applications in the autumn or winter only where the crop has a nitrogen requirement in the year ahead. AHDB funded ADAS research confirms that nitrogen pollution could be reduced by 60% if all manure applications are moved to spring. But both phosphate pollution and ammonia emissions are both likely to increase.

We’re working closely with Defra and the Environment Agency on how their rules – and our guidance – can evolve. We’re seeking a more sustainable solution which enables growers to make better use of resources while protecting water quality.

Value of organic materials Dr Sagoo gave application advice to make the most of muck, starting with the value of different types of manure. Recent research has investigated factors affecting nitrogen loss and possible strategies to minimise nutrient losses. Applied at a rate of 40t/ha, the nutrient value of “typical” cattle muck has nearly doubled – from £263/ha in spring 2020 to £451/ha more recently. This increase has been due to higher fertiliser prices. Given its financial value, Dr Sagoo

The nutrient value of cattle muck has nearly doubled

says it is well worth taking steps to minimise losses and maximise nutrient availability to crops. But doing so is complicated – not least because nitrogen can be lost through volatilisation, denitrification and nitrification.

Assessing nutrient content The first step is to understand the nutrient content of the organic material. While nutrient content can vary widely, there are a number of tools available to farmers, from laboratory and onfarm testing to data-based estimates. The AHDB Nutrient Guide (RB209), for example, contains tables of “typical” crop nutrient availability figures for nitrogen, phosphate, potash, magnesium and sulphur at different timings for various manures. The MANNER-NPK software tool is also useful. It provides estimates for crop available nitrogen, phosphate and potash. The MANNER-NPK tool is available to download at www.planet4farmers.co.uk. The guidelines in RB209 are useful, they have been drawn from a large number of samples, but they are averages and lots of faccontinued overleaf

Spreading muck and slurry has become more valuable

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 45


MUCK & SLURRY continued from previous page tors impact nutrient content in organic materials. Livestock species, diet, bedding type and quantity, water use and how the manure or slurry has been stored will all effect nutrient levels. Laboratory testing will improve the accuracy of your nutrient management. Dr Sagoo stressed the importance of obtaining representative samples. For slurry, this means stirring, as dry matter settles during storage. This means later loads from the bottom of stores often contain higher levels of dry matter and nutrients.

Reducing leaching Factors to consider when trying to minimise nitrogen losses, include type of organic material, the amount of readily available nitrogen and soil type. Leaching is highest for slurries and manures with a higher proportion of readily available nitrogen. Nitrate leaching is higher when applications are made during early autumn and winter

months. This is because as the amount of rainfall between the application date and end of soil drainage in spring is greater than for later winter/early spring applications. Leaching losses are generally greater from lighter textured sandy soils. But it is a common misconception that clay soils are nutrient retentive and that cracks close up in the winter and spring. Cracks do shrink when clay soils wet-up, but they don’t close and readily available nitrogen is still at risk of leaching if applied shortly before a rain event. ADAS trials at three experimental sites with hydrologically-isolated plots where drainage water could be captured show that nitrate leaching is greater from autumn slurry applications compared to those made in winter or spring. The same trials analysed ammonium, phosphate sediment and pathogen concentrations in drainage water. Ammonium and phosphate move differently through soils.

They aren’t soluble and don’t tend to leach through the soil matrix, but will still travel through soils with water via a network of small cracks and channels to the drains. This means we see elevated levels in drains if there’s high rainfall shortly after applications to wet soils. In the trial, peaks of phosphate and ammonium levels were clear to see in the water taken from the drains. Farmers should be aware of the risk of water pollution from slurry applications to drained clay soils based on soil moisture deficit at application. Where the deficit is above 20mm, the risk of leaching is low. Where the deficit is under 10mm, the risk of leaching is high.

Reducing volatilisation One third of readily available nitrogen can be lost through volatilisation. Growers can mitigate losses when applying solid manures by incorporating the material – and by using precision application kit to apply liquid manures and slurry. Trials show a trailing hose can

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reduce ammonia emissions by 30% compared to surface broadcast. A trailing shoe can reduce emissions by 40%. Shallow injection can reduce emissions by 70%. Incorporating solid manure is better still. It’s not all about nitrogen. Some manures and slurries are more valuable because of their phosphate and/or potash content. It is important to use them on fields that are low on these respective nutrients and cut back fertiliser applications accordingly. As a guide, Dr Sagoo suggests growers follow advice in RB209 and use ‘available’ phosphate and potash figures where the soil index is 0 or 1. Total phosphate and potash figures should be used where the soil index is 2 or above. The final step is to integrate the manure nutrients into the farm nutrient management plan and reduce bagged fertiliser use accordingly. Michelle Nuttall is a knowledge exchange manager for the AHDB. The AHDB webinar can be viewed at www.bit.ly/MuckWebinar


RB209 guidance adapts to nitrogen price spike

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igh fertiliser prices mean growers must factor a new ‘economic optimum’ into nutrient management plans. This is the point at which the value of extra grain produced is less than the cost of the extra nitrogen applied. To make it easier to calculate this point, the AHDB commissioned ADAS to conduct a rapid review of RB209 guidance. The first stage, published in November, extends the RB209 price tables by up to £2.50/kg of nitrogen. This is equivalent to £863/t of ammonium nitrate. The tables have also been extended by up to £350/t for cereals and £700/t for oilseed rape. The new information suggests that nitrogen applications per hectare should reduce by 70 kg/N where

the ammonium nitrate fertiliser price rises from £345 to £863/t with grain prices at £200/t. The same price rise should also see a 70 kg/N in fertiliser applications with oilseed rape at £500/t. The resulting changes would be a drop in yield of 600kg/ha and 250kg/ha respectively. The prioritisation of nitrogen in specific cropping situations will be considered in a new update due this month. This will consider quality specifications and the value of nitrogen from non-fertiliser sources. Input-cost and commodity-price volatility means a constant eye needs to be kept on the nutrient management equation, says the AHDB. The 2022 edition of the RB209 guide will be published in February.

Left: Using more fertiliser to produce more grain isn’t always sensible

For more information, please contact Howard Chantry Mobile: 07881 787997 Office: 01328 701992 Email: howard@greencrop.co.uk JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 47


MUCK & SLURRY

Farms of all sizes must reduce ammonia emission risk

Toolkit to measure farm ammonia emission risk

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lans for farmer-friendly toolkit that assesses the risk of farm ammonia emissions have been unveiled by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers. The tool kit developed by dairy farmer and RABDF Chairman Peter Alvis, with support from others in the industry, allows farmers to input basic data relating to housing type and management, slurry storage and spreading. It was developed in response to the government’s plan to introduce permitting for dairy and intensive beef farms by 2025, with concerns permits based on headage or output may not be the most effective and fair approach.

Lower emissions Mr Alvis said: “Larger farms may produce more total emissions, however emissions per animal, kilogramme or litre of output may be lower. Permits based on a headage or output basis may not achieve the desired requirement to reduce ammonia emissions.” A risk-based approach would be a more accurate way to assess emissions potential, says Mr Alvis. It would evaluate each farm based on size, the farming systems and practices used, and create a score for the farm, highlighting the emissions risk. “By using a risk-based tool, a farmer would be able to see the effect adapting or changing practices would have on their emission risk. They could then adopt the most appropriate and cost effective risk reduction technique for their farm.” The tool kit is still in development, but it is hoped to be released next year. Kathryn Morley from Defra said the menu-based approach in the tool 48 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

kit was an interesting idea. She added: “The reduction in emissions needed is quite substantial, so most farms will have to do everything they can to reduce emissions.”

John Allen: big restructuring

Reduction targets Government targets to reduce ammonia emissions by 49kt by 2030 are unlikely to be reached, says the RABDF – with Ms Morley admitting she was unsure whether it was even possible to reach that goal. “We acknowledge not everyone will be able to afford the change,” she said. John Allen from dairy consultants Kite Consulting agreed that some producers would find it hard to reach the target.The permitting of farms would cause “a big restructuring” of the dairy industry between 2023 and 2025, he said. He added: “Farmers are losing support payments and must find money to invest to meet emission reduction targets. It is quite realistic some farmers will face a 3p/ litre cost to meet targets; this is a lot when the average profitability is only 2.5-3p/litre.”

Cattle ‘among major sources of emissions’ Dairy cattle are thought to contribute 23% of all ammonia emissions from UK livestock, according to Defra figures. Ammonia gas is released to the atmosphere from cattle manures and slurries. Housing, manure and slurry handling, storage and spreading all contribute to this pollution. In the UK, 87% of ammonia released to the air comes from agriculture.Ammonia reacts with other compounds in the air to form secondary particulate matter, which significantly impacts on human health. Much of UK agriculture ammonia emissions are in low concentrations and are not harmful to human health, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. But combined with other emissions, such as diesel fumes, ammonia can pose a risk to people’s health and farm habitats. The government is committed to a 16% reduction in ammonia emissions by 2030 compared to 2005.

Eurofins expands expert testing team Slurry and manure testing specialist Eurofins Agro UK has appointed Sophie Cath as its new business development manager. She joins from Frontier where she specialised in commodity buying and selling inputs. She grew up on a farm and studied agriculture at Aberystwyth University and has since been working with farmers, agronomists and advisors. Eurofins Agro UK offers a range of

agricultural tests to help farmers understand the value of raw materials such as soil, slurry, and silage. Miss Cath will join an expanding Eurofins team with laboratories in Wolverhampton and Suffolk. “I have been involved in trials and precision farming applications in the past, so I am looking forward to working with our existing customers and expanding the business,” she said.


Research funding helps cut slurry emissions

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lurry inoculant manufacturer Envirosystems UK has won a share of Defra’s £5m Farming Innovation Pathways fund to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The SME has partnered with Myerscough College for an 18-month labto-field feasibility project. The aim is to deliver a bacterial approach to mitigating slurry ammonia emissions and enhancing slurry fertiliser value. Envirosystems head of research David Townsend said traditional approaches of capping or acidifying slurry to reduce ammonia emissions could have detrimental impacts on microbiological populations and lead to over acidification of soils. “This project allows us to combine our 20 years’ experience providing SlurryBugs to the industry with advances in technology to develop a new cost-effective option for reducing slurry ammonia emissions and bought-in synthetic fertiliser costs for farmers.

Dr Townsend added: “Our proposed solution takes a more holistic approach to this growing issue and provides a more cost-effective and sustainable approach than covering slurry stores.” Envirosystems says its solution has clear advantages over alternative strategies. It says harnessing an existing biochemical pathway in slurry will allow wide adoption and application to any farm – regardless of their existing slurry system.

Widely tested If all goes well, the project will be completed in early 2023. Envirosystems says the technology will be widely tested on farms and then rolled out to the wider market afterwards if it proves successful. The FIP funding is delivered through UK Research and Innovation’s Transforming Food Production programme, in partnership with Defra. The project could also help im-

prove air quality by reducing ammonia emissions. UKRI challenge director Katrina Hayter said it was timely to unveil a number of projects that would help meet Net Zero targets given that the UK hosted the COP26 climate change conference in November. “Working closely with farmers in the innovation process means that pressing challenges are identified. Solving these challenges will result in maximising productivity, reducing emissions, and making our farms more resilient and sustainable.”

The new technology could help reduce ammonia emissions

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 49


MUCK & SLURRY

‘Game-changing’ technology to extract phosphorus from slurry • • •

New income stream for farmers Better soil nutrient management Can be retrofitted to spreaders

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esearchers at Harper Adams University are to test ways of recovering phosphorus from cattle slurry – in a move which could benefit farmers. It comes after the research team at Harper and two commercial companies – Elentec and Merigan – won a £250,000 research award from UK innovation agency Innovate UK in partnership with Defra. The 18-month project will see the university test filtration and electrocoagulation treatment technology that adds an electrical charge to water to remove suspended solids from slurry. Developed by Elentec, scientists say the technology could be a game-changer for on-farm nutrient management amid legislative proposals to restrict the amount of phosphorus applied via slurry to farmland. The technology has been designed to be retrofitted to existing slurry systems and its modular design enables it to fit any size of farming enterprise.

50 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

It has already been shown to work in other industrial applications. The research project at Harper Adams will now seek to appraise how it can be applied to slurry management on a typical dairy farm – with a host of potential benefits and revenue streams set to follow for farmers as a result. The project will be based alongside grass crop trials of the treated slurry using both glasshouse and field experiments hosted by the Harper Adams University dairy farm at Newport, Shropshire. Government figures suggest a 100cow dairy herd produces 1,700 cubic metres of slurry over the typical 26week housed period each year, explained Harper Adams senior lecturer Marie Kirby.

Valuable “There are many potential benefits from slurry – but its application to farmed land is problematic in areas with increased susceptibility to pollution. The idea behind this application means, if successful, we can make slurry from a residue product into something which is potentially valuable.” Application of the technology will generate sustainable fertiliser products from slurry, benefiting the environment both through changes to nutrient management and through the replacement of industrially produced fertiliser.

We could make slurry into something more valuable

The £250,000 project will take 18 months to complete

As part of a combined effort to move towards Net Zero on dairy farms, it is hoped the technology will aid the recovery of phosphate, enhance the sequestration of carbon, and produce ‘grey’ water, which can be used for purposes such as irrigation. The maintenance, installation and cost of the systems and their scalability for UK farmers will be assessed as part of the project. Recovery of ammonium and nitrates that can be repurposed into organic fertilisers are a target for future research.

Scalable process Elentec chief executive John Bostock said: “The electrocoagulation technology will deliver a compact, robust, scalable process for efficient fractionation of dairy farm slurry into three components. The resultant grey-water can be re-used or safely discharged.” The three components are a concentrated, phosphorus-rich sludge for spreading as a fertiliser; carbon-rich solids for soil improvement and carbon sequestration; and a phosphorus-reduced liquor from which nitrogen can be harvested. Project manager Mike Theodorou said farmers would be consultated on the best way to retrofit the technology to pre-existing slurry handling facilities – and how best to design and implement the most appropriate business model on farms.


Test soil to save on expensive inputs

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rowers and livestock producers are being urged to consider applying slurry and digestate to plug gaps in fertiliser supplies. The shortage – and price increase – of nitrogen fertilisers can be mitigated by a more thorough understanding of soil fertility and plant available nutrients, says Daniel Robinson, managing director of soil testing specialist Eurofins Agro UK. “Farmers and growers can use new, more advanced, soil tests to better understand nutrient levels at the start of the season. Many broad acre crops are already in the ground so the tricky decision of what level of inputs to use remains.” Known as Fertilisation Manager, one of the available soil tests measures soil fertility. This includes the chemical values of macro and micronutrients, soil acidity and overall soil structure, says Mr Robinson.

“Bacteria present in a soil sample facilitates the accurate calculation of what nutrients need to be added to the soil to optimise plant health and growth. This will help users calculate the optimum amount and avoid overuse which should reduce costs”

More challenging Arable farmers could work with local livestock farms to relieve them of slurry, especially now that storage and spreading regulations are becoming more challenging, suggests Mr Robinson. “If the natural waste product is tested to establish its value, then an accurate calculation can be made to establish the amount required.” To better understand the relationship between soil inputs and the crop, a further test, Soil Crop Monitor, is now available which analyses both the soil and the plant. It does so by measuring

the plant available nutrients and the nutrients absorbed by the crop. “This will help monitor and measure the level of inputs needed for a specific crop based on what the soil is able to offer throughout the growing season, which will help control costs by managing any inputs needed more closely.”

Soil tests make it easier to decide optimum application rates

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Livestock Meat and dairy campaign aims to woo consumers • Campaign on TV and social media • Target aims to reach 90% of adults • Goal set to boost sales of red meat

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he importance of meat and dairy products to a balanced diet is being highlighted to consumers with the return of a hugely successful TV advertising campaign. Devised by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, the We Eat Balanced campaign kick-started the new year on 4 January with an advert featuring an inquisitive young girl and her grandad. Broadcast on Channel 4, ITV and Sky as well as on-demand services, the new TV advert focuses on the goodness within red meat and dairy – as a natural source of vitamin B12 produced to world-class standards. The TV advert is being supported by posts on Instagram and Facebook. The campaign website has also had a revamp. The goal is to reach 90% of adults during the month – including shoppers in supermarket meat and dairy aisles. The AHDB has worked with farmers from across the UK to make them central to the social campaign. It in-

cludes livestock producers telling their personal stories of how they work to ensure British meat and dairy some of the most sustainable in the world. AHDB marketing director Liam Byrne said the aim was to reconnect consumers with the food they eat, how it is produced and how it fits into protecting the environment. It would also counter misinformation and falsehoods about meat and dairy. Mr Byrne added: “Sourcing your meat and dairy from the UK will mean you’re buying a product with a lower carbon footprint, and produced to some of the highest production standards in the world.

Essential nutrients “In addition, meat and dairy both contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient not naturally present in foods of plant origin, so adding a little meat or dairy to your vegetables will boost the number of vitamins in your meal.” The campaign has been well received by both consumers and the in-

British livestock meet some of the world’s highest standards

It’s a muchneeded boost for our industry.

dustry, with some levy payers actively championing the campaign on social media – including beef and sheep farmer Charlie Beaty. “What AHDB have been able to achieve with the campaign so far has been fantastic and has served as a much-needed boost for our industry,” she said. “I really enjoyed working on this project and can’t wait to see where the campaign goes next.” A pilot We Eat Balanced campaign which ran last January shifted consumer attitudes towards the health benefits of meat (6%) and dairy (9%), while increasing the likeliness of customer purchases by 11% and 3% respectively.

Advert withdrawn after complaint upheld

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he Meatless Farm Company has withdrawn its adverts following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. The adverts, which ran across social media during October, claimed that eating plant-based food boosted people’s energy – and made them mentally and physically stronger. The ASA ruled that the adverts broke the rules. It came after the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board complained that the marketing campaign did not comply with

advertising codes which say health claims must be supported by proper evidence. The complaint forms part of a whole body of work carried out by the AHDB to challenge misinformation – and to ensure a level playing field is maintained within advertising campaigns.

Inaccuracies Earlier this year, AHDB contacted Oatly following its highly publicised ‘Help Dad’ campaign to highlight inaccuracies in its claim that “global livestock emit more greenhouse

gas emissions than all transport combined”. Oatly subsequently corrected the claim. AHDB head of media Phil Maiden said: “Advertising rules are there to ensure fairness and transparency for consumers, in which [the] AHDB takes an enormous amount of time and effort to ensure compliance. “This most recent result is excellent for AHDB and our levy payers, who by all accounts really value the work we do in this area. We continually work to challenge misinformation in the media and advertising.”

JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 53


Livestock

‘Crisis-hit supply chain needs urgent solution’ • Overseas workers needed • Pig sector still ‘in meltdown’ • Beef and dairy in turmoil

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ivestock leaders have stepped up calls for urgent government action to resolve labour shortages affecting the meat processing sector. Failure to act will mean a deepening food supply chain crisis which threatens to undermine domestic food security, said industry leaders in a statement following an emergency summit in London last month. Last autumn saw the first ever mass cull of healthy pigs in the UK – triggered by a shortage of abattoir workers which left livestock backing up on farms because they couldn’t be slaughtered and processed. NFU president Minette Batters said the food sector had also been hit by a shortage of lorry drivers, a limited choice of products on supermarket shelves and a rise in imports due to other domestic supply chain issues.

World leaders “Britain’s farmers are world leaders in producing climate friendly food and, over the past 18 months, have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full despite many being impacted by severe supply chain issues, particularly worker shortages.” “Government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient sup-

Independent pig production is under threat, says industry leaders

54 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

ply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone.” National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies said the UK pig sector was “still in meltdown” as abattoir worker shortages continue to reduce the sector’s ability to process the number of pigs already on farms. Without action, there would be no independent pig producers left, said Dr Davies. “Already 60% of pork eaten in the UK comes from the EU – it would be a travesty to see this figure increase as more healthy UK pigs are culled on farms and their meat wasted.”

Real pressure Bob Carnell, chief executive of beef processors ABP UK, said the government could help the industry cement its position as a global leader in sustainable beef production through better use of data and technology at farm level. “To help deliver and give UK consumers and other markets access to the best beef in the world, we need to attract and retain more skilled workers from home and abroad and ensure a level playing field for quality British meat compared to imports.” A similar view was expressed by Ash Amirahmadi, managing director of dairy processor Arla Foods UK. Shortages in a range of areas were putting real pressure on the supply chain, increasing costs and prices, he said. “These strains are not going to go away as we work to become even more sustainable and compete for the best people to come into our industry. Collaboration between government, the industry and farmers is the only way to address this for the long-term.”

Kevin Foster: taken to task

Minister blamed for lack of action

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n influential Conservative MP has warned that the government is slowly destroying UK farming by failing to resolve the crisis. Neil Parish chairs the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee – the cross-party group of MPs which scrutinises and holds the government to account over its farming policies. In a hearing last month, Mr Parish took immigration minister Kevin Foster to task for fuelling the food supply chain crisis by failing to attract more overseas butchers and other workers to the UK. “We are seeing our industry slowly being destroyed,” said Mr Parish. He added: “I thought Brexit was about encouraging production in this country, not discouraging it. This is down to labour shortages.” Emergency measures announced by the government last autumn included plans to allow 800 butchers and 5,500 poultry workers into the UK on short-term visas. But Mr Foster said fewer than 100 butchers had come into the country. Industry leaders have warned that the visa system is too cumbersome and costly. But Mr Foster blamed employers for failing to sign up to the visa scheme. He added: “They could be used immediately if people wanted to do so.” Plans for an on-farm cull and render service to help producers reduce the backlog of pigs on-farm were dropped last month. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said legal restrictions prevented the scheme from being launched.


Livestock should be tested until the risk period is over

Keep guard against liver fluke this winter • Mild weather fuels infection rates • Sheep are priority for early testing • Outwintered cattle are also at risk

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ivestock farmers are advised to keep guard against liver fluke this winter – despite a low risk for much of the season. Liver fluke is becoming a less predictable parasite challenge according to two industry groups – the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control of Cattle Parasites Sustainably (COWS). This unpredictability means diagnostic testing is critical to ensure animals are treated in a timely fashion, explains John Graham Brown of Liverpool University. “It is really important to repeat testing until the risk period is over. A negative test does not mean you can sit back and relax. Plan to repeat tests in three to four weeks’ time to make sure you don’t get caught out.” Sheep are most likely to be serious-

ly affected by acute liver fluke disease in the autumn and early winter. This means they are the priority for testing early on – and are also the best indicator of liver fluke on the farm.

Mild weather Matt Colston, a vet with Elanco Animal Health, says the recent change in weather, becoming wet and relatively mild in some areas, will favour the mud snail that is critical to the liver fluke lifecycle. “This means we could see an increase in infection rates in the coming weeks,” says Mr Colston. “Mild weather has also meant that cattle have tended to stay out longer, potentially exposing them to more risk.” Sheep Veterinary Society president Rebecca Mearns says faeces have tested positive some areas, although

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other samples have tested negative, including where liver fluke in cattle and sheep are too immature to be detected. “I would also urge livestock farmers to take note of feedback on liver rejections from the abattoir and always investigate any deaths with a post-mortem examination to check for evidence of fluke in the liver.” This view is echoed by Michele Macrelli of the Animal Plant Health Agency. There has been a significant number of positive test results for farms in South Wales, underlining the regional variation in risk this year. Anumber of tests and means of monitoring liver fluke are available to farmers. The most appropriate test depends on the time of season, reflecting the maturity of the liver fluke at different times of year. Appropriate winter tests include the coproantigen test – although farmers are urged to talk to their vet or adviser about the test that is best for them, and which class of stock will give them the most useful information.

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Property

Shortage of warehouse space fuels opportunities for farmers • • •

Good road access highly desirable Online shopping driving demand Opportunities for smaller farmers

E

astern region farmers are well positioned to take advantage of a rise in demand for warehouse space, say land agents. The growth of online shopping sparked by the pandemic and more frequent parcel deliveries are fuelling the need for storage in more rural and semi-rural locations, say rural advisors Savills. There has been an increase in the number of logistics companies looking for buildings to store goods as they roll off container ships at the Port of Felixstowe – making locations off the A14, A12, A140 and A11 highly desirable. Savills Suffolk head of rural management Michael Horton said: “Traditionally the logistics sector has been long haul. Goods come off the container ships at the Port of Felixstowe and then get taken to the Midlands.

Next day delivery “However with the coronavirus pandemic increasing people’s willingness to shop online – and with many goods now expected to be delivered the next day – that picture has changed.”

The past 18 months had seen increasing demand for sites that are much closer to home along key arterial routes, Mr Horton told a recent seminar attended by local farmers and landowners. With some 46% of UK container traffic coming through Felixstowe, there were new opportunities for farmers, he said. This included developing old agricultural buildings that were currently sitting empty. “Typically we are seeing returns of up to £8 a square foot, whereas a few years ago it was perhaps more like £4 or £5 a square foot. People are unlikely to change their shopping habits anytime soon, so we don’t anticipate that this demand will fall away.”

Almost half of all f UK container traffic comes through Felixstowe

Companies are looking for buildings to store goods.

Edward Fitzalan- Howard (pictured), from the rural management team at Savills Norfolk, said even farmers with a smaller space may have opportunities – not just landowners with larger scale commercial warehouse storage. “Local businesses often need somewhere to store archive materials for example, or disused agricultural buildings could be converted into self-storage facilities,” said Mr Fitzalan-Howard. “The change in people’s working patterns as a result of the pandemic has also opened up a really interesting opportunity around diversifying and creating small scale business parks and flexible office space suitable for hot desking.” Mr Fitzalan-Howard said this would cater for employees and business people who only commuted to the office once or twice a week but didn’t necessarily have space to work from home for the rest of the time.

Land prices hit highest level since 2018

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verage prices for arable farmland in England reached £9,700 per acre in the third quarter of 2021 – the highest quarterly average since early 2018. This rise reflects historically low levels of supply in the marketplace, combined with firm demand from a range of buyers, according to land agents Strutt & Parker. It shows that fewer than 10,000 acres came to the market in Q3 2021. This represents about half the amount of

56 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

land typically offered for sale. It takes the total amount of land coming on to the market to 48,100 acres so far in 2021 – compared to 48,200 acres at the same point in 2020. The reduction in area can be partly attributed to the private market being active, says Strutt & Parker. It estimates that private sales currently account for about 25% of the market nationally, and up to 40% in some regions. In some areas, there are virtually no

farms left unsold because demand continues to outstrip supply. Such is the strength of demand that every farm over 500 acres marketed in the first half of 2021 has already sold or is under offer. The average value of arable land for the whole of 2021 nationally is £9,200 per acre, which has been the average since 2017. Prices for vacant arable land in East Anglia during the third quarter of 2021 ranged from £7,500 to £10,250 per acre.


How to make surplus BPS cash work for you

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armers receiving Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments could make their money work harder with the help of a new agricultural savings account. More than £1.7bn of BPS money has just landed in the bank accounts of 97,500 farming claimants, according to the Rural Payments Agency. But much of it will go straight into current accounts – with little or no return achieved. Farmers could instead increase their return by investing surplus BPS cash in a savings account which also offers flexibility to access funds when needed, suggests Nick Evans, managing director at Oxbury Bank. “We know cash flow is really important to farming businesses, and this often puts farmers off from investing their money into savings accounts. That’s why we’ve launched a new Farm Business Bonus 5-Day Notice Account.” The account allows farm businesses to make short-term returns on their cash with

a five-day notice period to access funds. It offers an interest rate of 0.71%, which includes a 0.36% bonus for active farmers. Every penny saved is lent to farmers and the rural economy, with deposits raised to support its pipeline of farm loans. The latest account is the third farm business bonus notice account to be offered by Oxbury.

Bond account The other accounts offer a 0.86% interest rate with a 35-day notice period and 0.96% interest rate with a 95-day notice period. There is also a one-year Bond Account offering an interest rate of 1.26%. All accounts offer bonus interest to farmers. Oxbury Bank received its banking licence in 2020. Founded by farmers, agricultural distributors and technical experts, it is targeting an 8% share of all farm lending within five years – in a sector where the big four High Street banks have 70% of the market.

Nick Evans: Lending to farmers

The Future Farming Resilience Fund – agriculture support The Future Farming Resilience Fund, launched to support the transition within agriculture, has three phases, however, it’s the current interim phase, (August 2021 until spring 2022), that farmers and landowners must be aware of. To qualify during this phase, farmers and landowners must currently be in receipt of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). A key point to consider is that this is fully government funded, and it’s free of charge. The £10.7m fund is being delivered in different ways, with many providers offering a tailored approach, including farm visits and detailed financial and professional advice, individual to each business. In order to put themselves forward, farmers and landowners will need to contact one of the approved firms as outlined on the GOV.UK website. Firms outline their individual approaches, which may be adaptable subject to your business requirements. As part of the participation, expect a farm visit to enable the consultant to understand you, your business, current challenges, and what opportunities may exist. You must prepare, as business owners or managers are required to produce a variety of financial, cropping and environmental data to give the advisors the clearest picture of the business. The aim is to enable advisors to review and scrutinise businesses, to identify opportunities for change, diversification, and possible ways to adapt and produce greater output. The output improvement may be through change of tillage options, review of machinery requirements, reduction in horsepower to achieve the same result, or crop rotation changes for enhancing soil health and biodiversity. Expect a variety of recommendations personalised to your business. BPS payments begin to taper this year with the smallest and final payment in 2027. With further challenges also facing UK agriculture in 2021, the NFU is calling for a delay in the reductions to BPS for 2022 and 2023, as it does not consider the future policy for farming in the UK to be robust enough. The NFU is not requesting that the 2021 reduction be postponed; this will continue as planned. All farmers and landowners should be preparing and budgeting on the basis that the BPS reductions will continue to 2024, with future reductions through to 2027 expected to be much steeper. The Future Farming Resilience Fund reports will be based on a reduction to no BPS by 2028. We would encourage all farmers and landowners to get involved in the scheme, review their business and prepare for the future. This article is designed for the information of readers. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, information contained in this article may not be comprehensive and recipients should not act upon it without seeking professional advice.

Laurie Hill

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JANUARY 2022 • ANGLIA FARMER 57


FINAL SAY Fen Tiger

Catch 2022? High fuel and fertiliser prices could yet decide farming fortunes this year, says Fen Tiger

A

s another 12 months stretch before us, it’s customary to look to the future. And that goes for farmers as much as for anyone else. Certainly autumn 2021 was probably one of the kindest autumns on record. Rising wheat prices showed little sign of slowing – and even sugar beet growers seemed content with the new pricing structures for reasons I don’t fully understand. Potato growers were happy with prices around £250/t despite slow demand. Things were far from rosy for pig producers but it is seldom the case that farming fortunes are upbeat and positive across the board. That said, one problem looms over us all. All businesses and households are enduring higher energy costs. That is the same for heating as well as light. It’s a double whammy for farmers with a knock-on effect of higher fertiliser costs and higher fuel prices.

Big increases Natural gas accounts for roughly 80% of the variable costs of nitrogen fertiliser. The ammonia price in Europe has tripled during the past year. It has left farmers absorbing large increases in fertiliser prices. If natural gas prices remain high, companies such as Yara and CF Fertilisers – alongside others perhaps – may have to shut their fertiliser manufacturing plants more frequently for short periods of time. Back in October, temporary closures of some plants had already begun. The trouble comes when that lost production has to be re-

58 ANGLIA FARMER • JANUARY 2022

placed. We are also seeing significant price increases for phosphate, sulphur and potash. Supplies are limited. China is the world’s largest phosphate producer. And it has been limiting supplies in one way or another since last July. Those limitations are expected to last until summer 2022 at the earliest.

Political unrest Alternatives are hard to find. Lithuania is often considered the usual source of cheaper nitrogen for British farmers. But political unrest in neighbouring countries and sanctions have made this route more difficult than ever. We have, of course, been here before. Fertiliser prices have surged in the past on the back of high gas prices. Farmers reacted by reducing their usage until the market calmed down, manufacturers increased production and prices stabilised. This time, it could be the same. Or will it? With talk of climate change and carbon footprints it appears that little extra public finance is available to expand gas production and keep a lid on prices. Not yet, anyway.

All of us are enduring higher energy costs.

The twin challenge of reducing your carbon footprint while maintaining food production at acceptable levels is yet to be resolved. In the meantime, farmers are left struggling to cope with rising input costs. Residual phospate and potash levels mean your soils may be able to withstand a brief fertiliser holiday. But that is not the same for everyone and reducing nitrogen applications may not be an option although different formulations could work.

Partial answer Without wishing to reduce their yield capacity, some farmers may use this price hike as a wake up call and review their farming systems altogether. Others may feel that switching to liquid nitrogen using reduced rates could provide a partial answer. Manure applications are also a tired and tested way of increasing nutrient content while improving soil structure. But they do rely on good dry travelling conditions and there is increasing concern over potential pollution problems. Digestate waste is another option – although the nutrient value has never been clear to me. It seems that application rates have to be very high to achieve any sort of result beyond it being a convenient way to dispose of a waste product Whatever your product selection, this coming spring will be a testing time. As always, the bottom line on farm finances must be right with the consideration of your surroundings fast becoming a topical subject.


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