Midland Farmer May 2024

Page 1


How to bounce back after wet weather


Milling wheat will need extra nitrogen boost


Cattle at higher risk of liver fluke problems

Professional Services

Five-point plan to ride out farming crisis

Energy and Agri-tech Plan to increase farm investment


Untimely death

lesson for us all

is a
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OPINION Johann Tasker

How to bounce back after wet weather

Flood damage often only becomes fully evident when the waters recede – and that is true for farming following the tremendously wet winter and spring.

What has become one of the most challenging seasons in living memory has left soils compacted, crops thin and stunted, livestock bedraggled – and an air of subdued exasperation at the sheer waste of it all.

Waterlogged fields will take time to recover. Crops in the ground will need careful nurturing to reach harvest. Even then, any hopes of a decent yield vanished months ago. It’s a similar story for grazing land and forage.

No easy answers

Midland Farmer is a controlled circulation magazine published monthly for farmers and growers in the Midlands (Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire) or companies supplying goods and services to the sector. 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.

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So what to do? Farm leaders have rightly called for understanding from banks, farm suppliers, food processors and retailers. But harsh though it may seem, there are no easy answers.

The Basic Payment Scheme, which once cushioned farm businesses against the vagaries of the weather, is being phased out. Payments this yearwill be just half the original full amount – and gone altogether within three years.

Risk management is key. And in this issue of Midland Farmer magazine we look at some of the

options (see page 45). From knowing your production costs to identifying a marketing strategy and understanding the wider industry.

As always, it’s important to keep on top of the numbers. Reviewing budgets and forecasts isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – especially when there is a hefty backlog of fieldwork. But it is important.

There is also the need to have early conversations with lenders where required, rather than leaving it too late. Creditors are usually more amenable when financial matters can be dealt with in a considered way.

Optimistic occupation

Longer term, some farms will take a view and restructure where necessary – or adopt less risky enterprises, either within farming or elsewhere, including environmental schemes.

All of this is, of course, easy to say and more difficult to do. But farming is by its nature an optimistic occupation – people will always need to be fed. If there is one thing we do know: farming families are a determined bunch and most will be here for years to come.

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Contents Vol 13 • No 5 • May 2024
News .................................................................... 4 Arable .................................................................. 9 Cereals 2024 ................................................... 23 Livestock .......................................................... 35 Energy & Technology .................................. 39 Professional services .................................. 45 Clodhopper ..................................................... 47

Retailers ‘must help farmers rebound from wet weather’

• Unions make plea to supermarket bosses

• Producers remain under pressure

• ‘Sharp focus’ on food security

Britain’s supermarket bosses are being urged to help UK farmers bounce back from the disastrously wet winter and spring.

In a joint letter to major retailers, leaders of Britain’s four main farm unions say the challenging weather has brought food security into sharp focus. And they call on supermarket bosses to demonstrate their commitment to UK farming.


The letter to retail chief executives was sent on behalf of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union. Exceptional rainfall has increased costs and disrupted individual farm businesses, it says.

The letter warns: “These challenges come at a time when many of our members are already struggling to remain viable due to the perfect storm of sustained and spiralling production costs, low market returns, and increasing levels of regulation.

“This latest challenge, while not new, is more acute than ever, and is compounding the pressure on our members. Farmers and growers con tinue to bear the lion’s share of the risk within their supply chains, and this is unsustainable.”

Local sourcing

Farm leaders say major retailers should maintain a steadfast commit ment to local sourcing. Average food prices in the UK are already some of the lowest in the world – and there needs to be fairness in the supply chain, they add.

There should also be flexibility on product specification. Unprecedent ed challenges mean it is possible that farm produce may now not fully con form to the exact specification previ ously agreed, says the letter.

To ease cash flow challenges, supermarkets should pay suppliers promptly. This will help farmers keep their businesses functioning. The letter says promotion will help ensure UK consumers can keep on enjoying highquality British food.

Key role

Farm leaders are in talks with their respective governments on further support to help the industry navigate these short-term challenges. But they say retailers also have a role in helping farmers withstand this latest crisis.

[Picture: Gary L Hider / Shutterstock.com]

“It is no exaggeration to say that the current challenges are some of the most acute the industry has faced in a very long time, and we need your support more than ever to maintain food production across the UK and safeguard our food security.

“Our members will continue to work tirelessly in the face of this latest adversity to maintain their high standards of production and welfare that your customers have now come to expect,” adds the letter.

It concludes: “We now urge you to support our members’ efforts.”

Charity gears up for annual Open Farm Sunday

Organisers preparing next month’s Open Farm Sunday say they want even more farms to open their gates and welcome the public.

The Linking Environment And Farming charity (LEAF) says it has been approached by all types of growers and livestock producers to promote a positive image of the industry on Sunday, 9 June.

Welcoming visitors on farm doesn’t have to be complicated, says OFS manager Annabel Shackleton. Now in its 18th year, the industry’s annual open day provides an opportunity for every

farmer to put their stories centre stage, she adds.

“It’s a misconception that you need a blockbuster budget and an army of volunteers to host an event – that’s not the case. There is real scope to develop an Open Farm Sunday format that works for you.”

The Open Farm Sunday Handbook provides a step-by-step guide to hosting different events – with guidance on posters, signage, gate banners, “ask me” badges and give-aways for children. For details, visit farmsunday.org

Open Farm Sunday is a popular day out for families
Food inflation has gradually eased from recent high levels

As with everyone else in the country, we have spent the past few months battling the weather. Drains blowing up, ditches not coping and Oil Seed Rape not helping in the current climate either!

We were asked to investigate several wet spots for a good client of ours. . . .it turned into one of those

“Forth Road Bridge” type of jobs!!

One of the drains we found blowing up. Here is the culprit, full or Oil Seed Rape roots.

These fields have a high sand /soil content which made it very easy for the roots to find the drains and the water in them during dry spells The client has said that he is going to be planting Oil Seed Rape just not as quick on their usual rotation!




Spotlight to shine bright on crop trials at Arable Event

Winter cereal trial plots will be under scrutiny when more than 1,500 visitors attend the Arable Event on the Shropshire/ Staffordshire border next month.

Organised by Wynnstay and GrainLink, the one-day event will include trial plots of wheat, barley, oats, hybrid rye and triticale. It takes place on 19 June at Woodlands Farm, which is part of Bradford Estates, close to Junction 3 of the M54.

The plots have been expanded this year to showcase a range of fertiliser and bio-stimulant demonstrations. Experts will be on hand to advise on product ranges from fertiliser manufacturers Yara, ICL, LKAB and Omex.


Winter wheats will include newly recommended provisional group one milling wheat SY Cheer, Elsoms soft wheat Bamford, and new hard feed wheat LG Beowulf from Limagrain.

Barley will include conventional variety LG Capitol and hybrid variety SY Buzzard with BYDV tolerance.

In terms of winter oats, Cromwell will make its debut as it looks to rival

Mascani in the milling sector.

Wynnstay combinable seed product specialist Danny Richardson said: “The Arable Event demonstration trials will enable farmers to find out about the latest varieties of cereal seeds and will give them an opportunity to compare key varieties.”


A range of seminars will include experts on hand to answer questions. Farm consultant Charlie Ireland, who features regularly on hit TV show Clarkson’s Farm, will also be making a return to the show.

He will be joined by farmer and contractor Olly Harrison, who became an “accidental YouTuber” at the start of lockdown and now has 118,000 subscribers to his channel, which showcases life on his farm and his contracting business near Liverpool.

Free fast track tickets are available to book and those booking an advance ticket will be entered into a prize draw sponsored by Mornflake. BASIS and NroSO points will be available.

For full details and tickets, visit www.thearableevent.co.uk

Why we must unlock the rural economy


Everyone will benefit if we unleash the potential of the countryside, says Sophie Dwerryhouse

he rural economy is 19% less productive than the national average. It’s a stark figure. The next gov ernment needs to understand that £43bn could be added to the country’s economy by closing this gap.

We have been meeting MPs and Prospective Parlia mentary Candidates (PPCs) to discuss the important issues facing farmers and landowners, as well as highlighting the challenges and opportunities we face.

One topic at the forefront of farmers’ minds is the importance of supporting profitable and sustainable farming. There is no simple answer. It certainly isn’t a case of one size fits all. A fine balance must be struck that doesn’t compromise food production or the environment.

Closely following this is the need for a planning system specifically designed for rural communities. So many farm businesses are having to diversify to ensure that they remain viable but this is often hindered by local planning systems.

The next government has the opportunity to unleash the potential of the rural economy. As a continuation of our Rural Powerhouse Campaign, the CLA has launched six ‘missions’ to help political parties understand what is needed to achieve this:

1 Profitable and sustainable farming

2 Affordable homes in every community

3 Tackling rural crime

4 Delivering economic growth in rural areas

5 Responsible access for all

6 A fully connected countryside

The typical CLA member owns and manages about 80ha of land. Traditionally, these have been small family farms but they are becoming increasingly diversified and involved in tourism, producing and supplying renewable energy, building homes, leasing office space and other activities vital to the local economy.

Farmers and landowners are working hard to grow their businesses whilst helping to sustain the community they are living and working in. Emphasising the role our members play in solving some of the issues within the region remains vitally important

The incoming government will need to match the ambition of rural communities and businesses who are determined to sustain, develop and grow their businesses.

Sophie Dwerryhouse is Midlands regional director for the Country Land and Business Association. For more details, visit www.cla.org.uk

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Arable Milling wheat ‘likely to need nitrogen top-up’

Weather plays havoc with reserves

Strong milling wheat and protein premiums make it an easy deci sion to push crops for grain qual ity this season – but growers should be aware of low nitrogen levels.

Washout winter and spring weath er means some crops face a double chal lenge to achieve protein specifications. Soil nitrogen is depleted due to leach ing and nitrogen uptake is compro mised due to poor rooting.

Tailored agronomy

Overcoming this challenge will re quire some carefully tailored agron omy, says ProCam agronomist Justin Smith. Soil tests indicate nitrogen lev els have been 20-30kg/ha below their usual levels in some places after all the rain, he adds.

Above: ProCam has evaluated a range of foliarapplied nutrient treatments

“On top of that, root growth has been seriously compromised by water logging, because roots haven’t had to reach down far to find moisture.

“Not only is there less soil nitro gen available, but affected plants will also have greater difficulty accessing what’s there.”

Inset: Waterlogging has seriously compromised root growth, says Justin Smith

Left: Foliar-applied nutrition could boost grain proteins this season

If May and June turn dry and soils dry out too, this will further limit root uptake, says Mr Smith. This will hit grain protein, making foliar treatments – which don’t rely on root up-

Dry soils will also limit uptake of nutrients such as magnesium and potash, but a foliar application of Proplus Excel included at the T2 spray timing will provide both of these elements plus sulphur, explains Mr Smith.

“The other thing needed in milling wheat is good specific weight,” he says. “You want plump, well-filled grains.” So there are multiple reasons to protect photosynthetic green leaf area against disease, including septoria tritici, which is rampant this season.

Several popular group 1 winter wheats also have low resistance ratings against yellow or brown rust.

As well as using a triazole fungicide active against fusarium for the T3 ear spray, include a suitable strobilurin to stay on top of rust risks.

“It’s not worth missing out on the good milling wheat premiums available,” says Mr Smith. “The last thing you want is a milling variety being sold for lower-priced feed.”


Wet soils increase potato pest threat

Stubbornly wet soils and a high water table could increase the risk of wireworm damage in potato crops this season.

Research over recent years has identified high soil moisture as a precursor for pest activity, with wet areas and flood plains increasing pressure levels, says Syngenta technical manager Andy Cunningham..

Cover crops

Reduced autumn cultivations and the ability of overwintered cover crops to harbour wireworm populations could see a double whammy of problems in spring-planted crops.

“Wireworm is an increasing issue in cereal rotations, particularly where there are grass weeds in stubble or left as cover – be that with stewardship scheme compliance or limited chance for cultivations in the autumn that disrupt the pest.”

At the same time the wet winter and spring have severely curtailed opportunities to combat wireworm using integrated pest management techniques – making cultural control difficult.

Alternative approach

Alternatives include incorporating 15kg/ha of Nemathorin at planting. Syngenta trials in Lincolnshire last year showed this reduced wireworm damage to 2% of tubers at harvest, compared to 9% in untreated areas.

Damage severity was also reduced. No tubers in the Nemathorin treated areas had more than five holes, and significantly fewer had one-to-five holes. Meanwhile, 2.5% of the untreated crop had three or more wireworm holes.

High pressure

The application of Nemathorin at 30 kg/ha is permitted where PCN or freeliving nematodes are being targeted.

In a high-pressure field situation this halved the number of tubers seriously affected by wireworm, says Mr Cunningham.

“PCN remains the most serious soil pest of potatoes – hitting yields in the current crop and, if left unchecked to multiply, the future viability of fields for potato growing in the rotation.”

Yield increase

In an average of eight recent trials where PCN was present, Nemathorin delivered an average yield increase of more than 17 t/ha over untreated. In the same trials, Velum Prime achieved just 4.5 t/ha extra yield.

In terms of financial reward, Mr Cunningham says Nemathorin returned a margin of more than £2050/ ha on a 40 t/ha crop, compared to less than £500/ha with Velum Prime.”

Nemathorin treatment held the multiplication rate down to 2.5, compared to 9 in the untreated.

Above: Wireworm tuber damage

Below: Growers have options – but they are limited, says Andy Cunningham

In the Velum Prime treat ments, the PCN continued to multiply at a rate of 7.5 times.

“IPM measures for all soil pests – including variety selec tion, rotation interval, adapt ing harvesting dates and tar get markets – can all help growers and agronomists mitigate against damage,” says Mr Cunningham.

“But where there is a risk of losses, the use of Nemathorin could provide additional protection to yield and assure the long-term viability of potato production.”

New specialist adds to Agrovista’s seed offer

Agrovista Seeds has appointed a new eastern seed sales manager to meet increasing demand from growers looking for technical expertise and advice.

James Barlow (right) grew up on an arable farm in Nottinghamshire. After studying for a degree in agriculture at Lincoln University, he spent more than eight years with Gleadell/ADM Agriculture where he roses to become head of seed.

“My main role is working with Agrovista’s agronomists, who are trusted first points of call for many of our growers,” says Mr Barlow, who will cover both the East Midlands and East Anglia.

“I supply those agronomists with key information to help customers make the best variety choices for their farms without having to go through what can be a laborious de cision-making process.”


Agrovista’s seed portfolio includes a mix of mainstream and own-brand cereals alongside oilseeds, maize, grass and cover crops – as well as environmental stewardship mixes.

Varieties are selected on a rig orous testing regime over several seasons and range of growing con ditions. Wheat, barley and oilseed rape are assessed from Recommend

ed Lists and breeders’ lines tailored to suit individual growers.

Agrovista’s wheat offer, for example, contains a shortlist of 10 of the technically best varieties that have the best chance of delivering a predictable outcome in terms of target yields and quality, reducing var-

The aim is to work with growers to get the best from the varieties they choose through site selection, seed rates, drilling dates and input management, explains Mr Barlow.

“Agrovista is not afraid to give it a go, putting money behind these varieties, and it is an area we want

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Approval expected for new cereal fungicides

Japanese crop protection company Sumitomo Chemical expects to secure approval for a number of new cereal fungicides on UK farms.

Sumitomo already markets a portfolio of agrochemical products in the UK. It includes Soleil, a combination bromuconazole and tebuconazole for rust and fusarium control in wheat; Dipel, which combats lepidoptera; and the pyrethroid Sven.

In the pipeline are a number of new conventional active ingredients. Those in the approval system are two fungicides targeting key diseases such as Septoria, net blotch, ramularia and rusts – with more planned.

New actives

“We are currently working with key organisations such as NIAB and ADAS on trials to further optimise the potential of these products and we hope to present our data on these new actives in the near future,” says Sumitomo business manager Simon Leak.

Although relatively little know in the UK, Sumitomo has over 30,000 employ-

ees working in more than 150 group com panies around the world. It is ranked eighth globally for agrochemicals with a $3.5bn annual turnover.

Alberto Ancora, general manager of Su mitomo Chemical Agro Europe, says the company aims to strengthen its UK pres ence. Beyond conventional agrochemicals, it is also investing in biorational products – low impact crop protectants.

“We see significant potential in combin ing conventional chemistry with new bio rational strategies as an ideal solution for sustainable farming. Although Sumitomo may be a new name to many UK farmers and agronomists, we have a rich history.

Farming remained a challenging profes sion, said Mr Ancora. It required numer ous skills, passion and entrepreneurship. “Farmers will need to focus on greater sus tainability by integrating traditional chem istry with successful biorational solutions.”

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‘Perfect storm’ warning for BYDV this spring

• Warm winter boost for aphids

• Late-drilled crops add to worry

• Stay vigilant and act if needed

Amild and wet first three months of the year threaten to result in a perfect storm for barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) infections this spring.

Winter temperatures were rarely low enough to reduce populations of virus-carrying aphids – which have started to migrate just as crops are at their most vulnerable, says agronomist Bill Lankford, of Adama.

“In England, the first aphid migration of the year rarely threatens spring barley, as crops are usually far enough ahead that they have advanced beyond their most susceptible 2-5 leaf growth stage,” says Dr Lankford.

Late drilling

“But mild conditions in January, Feb ruary and March mean temperatures rarely fell below the minus 5°C needed to reduce aphid populations.

While most spring barley would normally be sown and out of the ground by the end of March, large areas were still to be drilled in April – leaving sig nificant potential for emerging aphids to infect new seedlings.

Forecasts from experts at Rotham sted Research suggested the first flights of bird cherry-oat aphid would take place in the first half of April, with grain aphids and rose-grain aphids following soon after.

“That’s two to three weeks ear

Right: More grain aphids migrated in higher numbers this spring

Below: Bill Lankford –concern at forecasts

lier than normal, with the number of aphids also predicted to be in the top 25% of historical levels,” said Dr Lankford.

There’s a high risk that barley plants could become infected with the BYDV virus almost as soon as they emerge from the seedbed, with sub sequent aphid migrations exacerbat ing the problem by spreading the vi rus further into the field.”

Malting premium

To protect yields, and the potential for crops to attain a malting premi um, growers have been advised to fac tor a suitable aphicide treatment into their early season spray programmes.

In Ireland, where the convergence of aphid activity and crop emergence occurs more frequently, yield losses of up to 1t/ha are commonplace in un treated crops, says Dr Lankford.

“It’s worth protecting crops from the outset,” he adds.

If the aphid population threshold is exceeded, it’s best to apply an insecticide when the crop is at growth stage 13-14, says Dr Lankford. A pesticide with a low impact on beneficial insects can further control pest populations, he adds.



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Mavrik has the added advantage of being very fast-acting which means it halts feeding damage quickly. Studies show it also remains stable at higher temperatures compared to alternative insecticides.

“Aphid knockdown and the persistence of Mavrik continued to be robust at 20-25°C –which makes it the more effective option if and when the mercury finally starts to rise,” says Dr Lankford.

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Yellow rust is ‘lurking’ in late-drilled wheat

Aperfect storm of late-drilled fields, susceptible varieties and the mild winter means yellow rust is now lurking in many winter wheat crops.

With its potential to reduce yields by as much as 50%, it is important to tackle yellow rust early – before it has the chance to spread up the plant, says Syngenta cereal disease expert Joe Bagshaw.

“Unlike septoria tritici, which is favoured by earlier drilling, yellow rust tends to be more of a problem in later-drilled winter wheat,” explains Mr Bagshaw.

“Clearly, later drilling has been commonplace this season because of the washout weather. But several key varieties that are suited to later drilling also have low yellow rust resistance ratings,” he adds.

With yields already likely to be depressed to some degree because of later drilling, Mr Bagshaw says it will be vital to do the best possible job of safeguarding remaining yield potential, but to do so cost-effectively.

“Understandably, growers will be looking for cost-effective fungicides in the early part of the season. But it’s important to ensure these fungicide also provide proven yellow rust activity wherever this is a threat.”

Growers are advised to consult the fungicide dose response curves on the AHDB website. These curves show the results achieved by different spray strategies on reductions in yellow rust and yields.

Protecting crops

Solatenol (benzovindiflupyr), which is the SDHI fungicide in Elatus Era, has given toplevel results in yellow rust situations. “It also provides excellent value for money for protecting crops at the important T1 fungicide timing,” says Mr Bagshaw.

Following a wet spring, it’s also important to stay on top of septoria tritici.

On top of that, winter temperatures simply haven’t been cold enough to kill off the lower leaves where yellow rust is lurking, says Mr Bagshaw.

Final yield

“All this means later drill ing has been commonplace in the base of many wheat crops. This will need controlling before it spreads up to the top three leaves, be cause these leaves contribute about three-quarters of final yield.”

“Where later-drilled wheat crops contain lower levels of septoria tritici, they should be in a more preventative situation than earlier-drilled fields. This again makes Elatus Era a good option to consider at T1 in these later-drilled situations.”

In addition, Mr Bagshaw says tank-mixing a multi-site fungicide with an SDHI is always an important consideration for resistance management in Septoria tritici situations, to help protect the activity of

“An SDHI which offers good value for money makes it an easier decision to include a multi-site in the tank mixture, and to apply that SDHI at a suitably robust dose for better disease control.”

Growers face a perfect storm for yellow rust, says Joe Bagshaw

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Conventional rape varieties are ‘worth another look’

• New varieties ‘match hybrids’

• High yields and similar vigour

• Lower cost and reduced risk

Growers are being urged to reconsider conventional oilseed rape varieties ahead of their cropping strategies for the 2024/5 season.

New conventional rape varieties include several high-performing varieties based on targeted special traits, agronomic merit scores and shorter breeding cycles, say breeders and seed suppliers.

Mark Nightingale, of Lincolnshirebased Elsoms, has been breeding oilseed rape for more than 20 years. He has seen a significant rise in popularity of hybrids in recent years based largely on their reputation for enhanced vigour.

But Mr Nightingale says he now feels that the arrival of new conventional, open-pollinated types offering high yields and similar levels of vigour could tip the balance back towards conventional varieties.

Although rape prices are lower than the highs seen in recent years, the UK still imports 1.5m tonnes of oilseeds annually. “Market demand is still strong,” says Mr Nightingale, who says his role is to ensure growers can grow the crop successfully.

ing techniques to produce conventional varieties which not only match hybrid varieties, but actually outperform them in many areas –including higher yields.

Mr Nightingale says it is also worth noting that new conventional varieties can be bred far faster than hybrids, so the cost of seed is often much lower.

That can mean substantially lower costs and less risk when establishing the crop.

“Despite many other strong and well established economic and agronomic arguments for conventional varieties, there’s little doubt that they have been overlooked when it comes to variety selection.”

The trend towards early establishment to combat cabbage stem flea beetle has seen growers become overly reliant on over-yeared seed – which tends to be less vigorous, regardless of whether it’s a conventional or a hybrid variety.

Risk mitigation

To combat the flea beetle threat, Elsoms is breeding new varieties better able to cope with higher larval loads. And because the breeding cycle for conventional rape is faster, these varieties can adapt to this selection pressure quicker than hybrids.

This is just one element of a wider risk mitigation strategy for growing rape successfully, explains Mr Nightingale. It links with establishing rape after flea beetle migration to minimise damage and the use of later-applied herbicides.

New conventional varieties from Elsoms include Powerhouse, Firebird and Hallmark. All are in AHDB candidate trials and Mr Nightingale says each offers UK growers something specific to suit their needs.

Powerhouse has exceptionally high seed yields, Firebird combines a high gross output with built-in Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYv) resistance and Hallmark offers high oil content and excellent verticillium resistance.

New conventional varieties are promising, says Mark Nightingale

Growing both

While recent years have seen a definite trend towards hybrids, United Oilseeds seed manager Beckii Gibbs says there has always been a strong place for good conventional varieties.

“Many consistently successful farmers grow both as part of their selection strategy,” says Ms Gibbs. And she emphasises that no rape variety is resistant to flea beetle with both hybrid and conventional varieties susceptible to larval damage.

“Stacked traits in hybrid varieties are very good, but only if you have issues with those resistance,” says Ms Gibbs.

“If you don’t, then you don’t need them and there are certainly some exciting conventional varieties with targeted special traits out there for growers as well, so the overall options on variety choice look strong.

“I see agronomic merit (AM) scores as a farmer-friendly way of comparing varieties when combining yield, oil content, lodging and disease resistance into one single figure. Elsoms new varieties prove you can have a top AM score in a conventional.

“Of the new Elsoms varieties, Firebird has a top three AM score in the East and West with 42.6 and the top AM score in the North with 31.7. “From recent trial results I’ve seen it appears to have no real weaknesses.”

Ms Gibbs says Hallmark also looks very appealing. “It’s an early maturing variety with excellent verticillium resistance – better than the resistance control in independent testing.”

Beckii Gibbs: Exciting conventional varieties


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How ‘powerful pods’ can protect rape yields

• Added harvest security features

• First variety with new technology

• Physical traits reduce seed loss

New oilseed rape genetics developed by plant breeder DSV are building on traditional pod shatter characteristics to increase harvest security in light of increasingly variable growing conditions caused by unpredictable weather.

The company’s latest RL addition DSV Dolphin is the first new generation hybrid variety specifically developed to combine a key set of genetic traits to protect pods against adverse weather later in the season.

“Pod shatter genetics, contained in several DSV oilseed rape varieties and others on the RL, have done much to highlight the issue of harvest seed shed,” says DSV’s Sarah Hawthorne.

“It is, however, now widely understood that how a variety performs during its growth and at harvest is the function of many different characteristics rather than just a single gene or property of a variety.

“Other factors such as the plant’s overall strength and health, its disease resistance and growth habit together with the actual physical form of the pod are increasingly seen as fundamental to how it performs at harvest.”

With this in mind, DSV breeders have been working on three key pod characteristics around the concept of “powerful pods” which contribute significantly to reduced seed losses in adverse conditions, she explains.

“These are greater flexibility of the pod structure, improved function of the pod valve margins and greater space around individual seeds.


“Increased flexibility, for example, gives pods a resilient ‘rattle-proof’ structure which makes them less friable and more able to absorb energy rather than break open in conditions with extremely high winds or hailstorms.

“This enhanced flexibility also allows pods to cope better with the uneven tensions produced from drying after rainfall, which can lead to pods splitting.”

Varieties with powerful Pods also have a stronger valve margin – the

Right: Sarah Hawthorne: Promoting 'powerful pods'

mechanism at the base of the pod which effectively controls the open ing of the valves, effectively the sides of the pod containing the seeds.

“This avoids early triggering of the opening process particularly when pods are stressed such as in adverse weather or when going through the combine header.

“More space in individual pods also allows seeds to develop fully as they mature so a variety can reach its full yield potential, but it also stops growth stressing the pod which can again lead to premature failure.”

Results from DSV’s own trials and an AHDB analysis of pod shatter re sults have underlined DSV Dolphin’s harvest performance, says Ms Haw thorne.

“In random impact tests carried out at the DSV breeding station at Thule in Germany where pods from differ ent varieties are bombarded with steel ball bearings in controlled conditions, DSV Dolphin achieved one of the best seed retention scores.

“Results from an AHDB analysis in 2023 have shown little difference in the performance of DSV Dolphin with regard to seed loss compared to many of the most popular pod shatter varieties.”


Dolphin is first of a new generation of hybrid varieties

Fully featured variety

Other factors working alongside DSV Dolphin’s powerful pods seed protec

“DSV Dolphin also offers growers a high level of protection from the growing threat of the TuYV virus now endemic across the UK where it can reduce yields by up to 20%.

“It is also one of only a few varieties to feature RLM7+ and multi-gene resistance to stem canker.”


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Cereals 2024

New host farm makes debut for Cereals 2024

• New venue for flagship show

• 15% increase in exhibitor numbers

• Displays and live demonstrations

Thousands of visitors will attend next month’s Cereals event –with organisers reporting good sales of early bird tickets.

Hosted by Alex Farr and his cousin Edward Wainwright-Lee, the twoday show on 11-12 June is being held across 45ha of outdoor event space at Bygrave Woods, Newnham Farm, in Hertfordshire.

The venue is a diversified business on the Farr family’s 900ha arable farm – complete with established trackways and amenities. Up to 20,000 visitors and exhibitors are expected to attend the flagship arable show.

“We love welcoming people to Bygrave Woods – it’s great to be the host farm for Cereals after attending it over the years,” says Mr Farr.

“The event offers such breadth of information and technology; the progress in robotic technology is always something that gets our attention –and it never gets old meeting new and old friends.”


Exhibitor numbers are 15% up year-onyear, with exhibitors bringing a wealth of practical and technical expertise, says event organiser Ali McEntyre.

It’s great to be the host farm

“Every year we learn more about what Cereals visitors want. This year’s line-up reflects all that feedback – we are absolutely committed to making the event even better every year, and we’re looking forward to opening the gates in June.”

Arable agronomy

As always, Cereals will showcase the latest developments in arable agronomy, machinery, technology and business advice.

Visitors can expect to see more than 450 exhibitors, 200 live demonstrations, seminars and individual crop plots with the latest varieties.

The KWS-sponsored Seed to Shelf stage – a fresh take on the main stage – will trace the entire arable supply chain from seed to retailer.

About this year’s host farm

Newnham Farm encompasses different elements of many modern farm businesses up and down the country.

The arable rotation is based on winter wheat (480ha), oilseed rape (130ha), sugar beet (120ha) and sunflowers (10ha). The farm includes companion and cover crops, wild bird seed and wildflower mixes.

Diversification started with the event space – Bygrave Woods – and has continued to grow. A 380,000-broiler unit comprises 10 sheds, with four woodchip boilers, and a portfolio of residential and commercial lettings.

The diversified nature of the farm business is helping it to develop its own circular economies – including using manure from the poultry on the wheat crop, with any wheat that does not make milling grade fed back to the poultry.

It will include talks from plant breeders, agronomists, farm contractors and farmers, through to grain marketers, processors, retail brands and retailers. The stage will also host a political welcoming session.

Remaining at the heart of the show are the crop plots, expanded by a further six new exhibitors – putting even more varieties on display. Experts will be on-hand to guide and advise growers across both days.

A winter wheat and barley feature curated by Ceres Rural will also return. It will include a plots of popular winter wheats for different end markets; and a collection of two-row and six-row malting barley varieties.

These plots will give visitors the opportunity to see some Recommended List varieties side-by-side.

Soil health

A 20m-long NIAB Soil Hole will give visitors an insight into cultivation effects and crop growth below ground. A soil drainage and demonstration area is being curated by the National Association of Agricultural Contractors.

This year brings with it an expansion of demonstration areas.

The Syngenta Sprays and Sprayers Arena, drill demonstrations and NAAC arena will showcase the latest precision technology, innovations in land preparation, establishment and crop protection.

Working demonstrations will include machines from Agriweld, Case IH, Maschio Gaspardo, Hardi, Merlo, New Holland and SDF. Automated and robotic equipment will be in action courtesy of AgXeed and Autonomous Agri Solutions.

For full details and tickets, visit www.cerealsevent.co.uk


Seminar stage focuses on arable supply chain

New talks and discussions at Cereals

Tracing the arable supply chain – from seed in the field to products on the shelf – is the theme of a new seminar stage at this year’s Cereals event.

Sponsored by KWS, the Seed to Shelf stage will host two full days of informative seminars from plant breeders, agronomists, farm contractors. Speakers will include farmers grain marketers, processors, retail brands and retailers.

“We understand the critical role the arable supply chain has in producing sustainable food sources that feed our country now and for future generations,” says Kirsty Richards, KWS conventional crops product manager.

“The schedule is full of informative seminars that explore a range of diverse topical matters that all impact the future of agriculture. We look forward to seeing you there.”

Panel discussion

The programme will kick off with opening remarks from NFU president Tom Bradshaw and Defra farm minister Mark Spencer. A panel discussion will follow on regenerative agriculture and the future of crop breeding.

Renerative agriculture always makes for a

“There has to be a mechanism where breeders are incentivised – not necessari ly financially – to develop different traits. The genetic variability is absolutely there though.”

This session will be followed by an update on the latest advances in crop protection, nutrition and agronomy. It will be chaired by Richard Lawrence, editor of Agronomist & Arable Farmer magazine.

Getting seed into the ground and up and away requires good kit, and a panel discus sion with key figures from big-name manu facturers will ask how machinery can help growers meet sustainability targets.

Soil protection

Farmer and YouTuber Olly Harrison is also set to appear on the panel. Responsible machinery manufacturers recognise that producing tractors and other machines has to benefit growers, he says.

The arable supply chain has a crucial role

Experts from the oat, wheat and barley markets will share their perspectives on the future of green premiums.

“Some of the technology available on drills, for example, allows us to use no-till techniques to protect the soil which is vital. I’m looking forward to hearing more from manufacturers about their plans for the fu

Adequate reward

Producers say they are willing to adapt to market requirements – if the reward is adequate, says Mr Meredith.

“I hope our panel of experts will be able

Cereals 2024
Kirsty Richards: Informative seminars

Prepare your grain store for warm weather.

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Agribuggy ‘built for all conditions’

McConnel will exhibit its new Agribuggy V300 self-pro pelled sprayer at Cereals 2024. The all-new design includes a redesigned cab, a new 50kph variable transmission, heavy-duty drivetrain, and a 3000-litre capacity spray tank for enhanced performance, durabili ty, and output.

McConnel says the machine has been designed so operators can spray crops in challenging ground conditions and tough terrain – with safe and productive working earlier and later in the year.

A redesigned Comfort Cab offers all-day comfort with outstanding visibility, LED work lights, electrically adjustable mirrors, high-back seat, and new floating control console.

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The new variable transmission ensures speed control for optimal spraying output, it says, while OMSI drive axles with locking differential provide improved traction and handling – especially when fitted with large-diameter row-crop wheels.

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Cereals 2024

Champion sprayer operator to be crowned

The winner of this year’s Farm Spray er Operator of the Year (FSOOTY) award will be crowned in the Syn genta Sprays and Sprayers arena at Cereals.

The award recognises the professional ism of sprayer operators across UK farms. It will be presented on the first day of the event, says Iain Lindsay, application special ist at Syngenta, which sponsors the longrunning competition.

Skill and expertise

“Past winners have demonstrated their skills and expertise in every area of crop spraying – from the initial agronomy deci sions through to the storage and handling of products – and to the final point of accu rate and, above all, safe application.”

All finalists win a trip for two to Cere als 2024 and will be presented with their awards at the event.

The overall FSOOTY winner will also win a place on a study tour to the Agritechnica European farm machinery showcase event in Hanover, Germany.

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Cereals 2024

Latest technology in sprays and sprayers arena

The Syngenta Sprays and Sprayers Arena has long been a shop window at the Cereals event for the latest innovation and technologies – and this year will include new developments in precision application practices.

These new developments could herald a step change in approaches to agronomy, says Harry Fordham, Syngenta’s farming technology lead. Precision application and artificial intelligence also mean more specific treatments, he adds.

“The immense potential of precision application includes innovative concepts of satellite mapping with variable rate treatment, prescription application, optical sensor spot spraying, and drones – along with other techniques.

More than 10 sprayer manufacturers will be showcasing their kit in the sprays and sprayers arena at the twoday event – offering more precise techniques that allow better targeted application.


Amazone will be sticking with its usual trio of the UX 01 Super – a top of the range UX 4201 with 36, 24, and 12m Super-L3 boom options – a UF 1602/24m with FT1502 front tank, and a Pantera 4504 with the 36, 24, and 12m Super-L3 boom.

On the stand will be the new Pantera 7004 with its variable front and back track adjustment and self-levelling suspension, along with an 8,000-litre UX 7601. It includes individual nozzle control technology.

“Our aim at Amazone is to provide responsible and sustainable spraying technology which maximises chemical efficacy and minimises input costs,” says the firm’s Simon Brown.

“The complete wet system and

Visitors to the sprays and sprayers arena will be able to explore the 'immense potential of precision application'

“We’re looking forward to the show

boom technology is designed to have the correct nozzle size and type, applying the most appropriate tank mix at the right rate, to the selected plants, with minimum drift and overlap.”


Fendt will also be returning to the arena with a much-loved favourite – the Fendt Rogator 600 self-propelled sprayer.

“The Fendt Rogator 600 continues to be popular amongst farmers and contractors alike, with various boom widths, axle configurations and two ride heights available across the range,” says Ed Dennett, Fendt marketing manager, UK and Ireland.

“The MY24 model features recent developments, including improved nozzles, plumbing, and easier options for tank cleaning, which are all aimed at maximising uptime and output without compromising on the job. ”

John Deere

A trio of sprayers from the John Deere household will be making their way around the arena at this year’s Cereals event, including the R740i 24m trailed sprayer, the R9620 36m trailed sprayer, and the 340M self-propelled sprayer.

The event will be the first large out

but, says the firm’s Mark James. “All three of the machines we are showing have our dual-circuit solution system, with benefits including fast filling for a quick turnaround.

“They also all feature our in-house developed individual nozzle control system, reducing overlaps and misses to the minimum, helping to reduce input costs.”

In terms of their connectivity, the trio also boasts John Deere’s ISOBUS control systems capable of variable rate applications, spot-spraying, documentation, and work planning with synchronisation to the John Deere Operations Centre.


Kuhn will be showing the benefits of its Metris 4102 trailed sprayer in the Sprays and Sprayers arena, which is claimed to offer users increased output and technology to improve application uniformity.

The sprayer has a 4,100-litre polyester tank featuring a deep sump, offering a low centre of gravity. Users have the benefits of semi-automated filling with a pause mode, in-cab display, and partial rinsing of the sprayer from the tractor.

Electronic continuous circulation enables increased spraying quality and ensures each nozzle is primed to apply the correct amount of liquid, while the 24m tri-fold booms give operators a lightweight option.

The sprayer includes Kuhn’s Boom Assist Slant, which features two ultrasonic sensors for height and tilt boom control, combined with a CCI A3 joystick. This gives users up to 30 controls via one joystick.

“Cereals provides us with a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of our Metris 2 sprayer range,” says Kuhn’s Edd Fanshawe.


‘Cross crop’ options promise strong future for cereals

• New cereal and rape varieties

• Hybrid barley Inys on display

• Focus on arable productivity

Plant breeder KWS will showcase its portfolio of combinable crops at Cereals 2024 – giving visitors an insight into the company’s so-called “cross crop” varieties.

“More than ever, we are focusing on high yielding varieties to complement our SPP genetics aimed at providing what growers need to cope with increasingly challenging growing conditions, says KWS conventional crops manager Kirsty Richards.

“While focusing on increased disease resistance, physical resilience and lower input requirements in our varieties over recent years, we have never lost sight of the importance of yield and profit-potential to growers.

“Yield is fundamental to economic success, resilience, competitiveness and ability to meet the demands of a growing population, while ensuring environmental sustainability.

New emphasis

“With the rising costs involved in crop production, a new emphasis on the importance of food security and the ongoing pursuit of business sustainability, yield is very much king once more and our new varieties reflect this.”

Heading up the company’s Cereals 2024 presence will be KWS Dawsum, Extase and Palladium.

Together with other established KWS varieties, they account for around 40% of all wheat drilled in the UK this year.

“Our Group 4 hard wheat KWS Dawsum alone has a 20% market share. In Group 2, KWS Extase remains the variety with the highest untreated yield on the Recommended List while KWS Palladium is fast becoming a firm favourite with millers and bakers.”

KWS has 10 new wheat varieties currently on the AHDB candidate list for possible recommendation at the end of 2024, says Dr Richards.

“These cover all the groups, with many set to become the benchmark varieties of the future. Visitors will

be able to see and discuss the benefits with KWS specialists.”



On the winter barley front, the high yielding two-row variety KWS Tardis with its 40% market share remains the UK’s top selling variety.

“But again, we have some exciting new winter barleys on the current AHDB candidate list to follow KWS Tardis and a new spring barley to show visitors too,” says Dr Richards.

KWS hybrid crops product manager Kate Cobbold says growing interest in hybrid rye will be reflected on the stand with plots of leading rye varieties headed up by KWS Tayo.

“KWS hybrid ryes now take up the first three spots on the AHDB descriptive list for 2024/25 and we’ve some exciting new generation hybrid oilseed rapes coming through as well.

But Ms Cobbold says the big news on the hybrid front with regard to KWS is the introduction of its first hybrid winter barleys.

“Sitting alongside our conventional winter barley portfolio, hybrid barley strengthens our offer to growers, adding many potential benefits including higher yields and greater resilience.

“Our first variety to launch is Inys, which has shown to be a step up in yield compared to the current market leading hybrid barley with an outright yield of 109% of controls plus a superb untreated yield of 93% due to its excellent disease profile.

Hybrid winter barleys will be big news on the KWS stand this year

“Agronomically, Inys also stacks up with very low lodging, and 10% lower brackling compared to the current market leading variety.”

Cross crop focus

Visitors looking to take advantage of the most productive rotations in the future will also have the opportunity to talk to a range of KWS’ specialists as part of the company’s “cross crop” initiative, adds Dr Richards.

“It’s a step up in yield

Dawsum will be among the wheat varieties heading up the KWS presence at Cereals 2024

“If you want information on crops such as maize, sugar beet, oats, peas and cover crops in addition to cereals, the KWS stand is the place to be.

“Demand for oats continues to grow year on year and we’ll have our spring oat Isabel growing on the stand, plus there’ll be news of two new oat additions currently on the AHDB candidate list.

Other crops

“Peas are an ideal crop to have in the farm rotation, offering growers an excellent break crop so we’ll also have varieties and information for growers to understand their role better. Cover crops will also be on show.

“Maize is becoming an increasingly attractive break crop option for arable growers so we’ll be joined by colleagues from KWS Maize highlighting the best varieties and the different options available to growers.

“Sugar beet can also play a role in adding vital resilience to rotations, so we’ll have KWS specialists on hand to look at current KWS varieties and also our new CR+ genetics for improved Cercospora control and potential fungicide savings.”

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The big debate: Is efficiency king?

• Control what is within your grasp

• Strive to make the best decisions

• Try not to waste time or money

Efficient and profitable cereal production will top the agenda during a special panel discussion on the Seed to Shelf stage at this year’s Cereals event.

With plateaued yields and volatility around crop inputs and outputs, it’s seldom been more essential for farmers to operate efficiently, says Edwin van Leeuwen, head of product development at data experts Yagro.

“Efficiency is about taking real control over what is within your grasp – and operating with minimum wast age in time and money to make the most out of every hectare you have,” explains Mr van Leeuwen.

“Efficient arable production acts as a safety net and profit-driver for your business. It can play a role in re ducing risks posed by external fac tors like volatile markets by provid ing you with the best possible gross margin.


“You might not be able to control the markets


production is a profit-driver, says Edwin van Leeuwen

can control how tight you keep your operation. Everything from purchasing to selling, inputs to outputs, overheads to variables... can all reveal opportunities.”

Yagro produces a range of tools to help growers continually optimise and refine their practices – helping to ensure farm-based decisions are well-informed and working towards maximum efficiency.

Challenges and opportunities around efficiency were the subject of a recent episode of Yagro’s Best in Field podcast, which featured Suffolk farmer and Claydon strip-till drill manufacturer Jeff Claydon.

“We wanted a platform to cover the topic in more depth, which is what we’ll be doing with Jeff on the Seed-toShelf Stage,” says Mr van Leeuwen.

“We will be discussing the relevance of optimising aspects like rates and timings – and the efficiency gains possible – as well as explaining how hardware and software can drive efficiency for modern arable enterprises.”

Also taking part in the Efficiency is King session will be farmer Harry

Middleditch & Son. “It’s not always about cutting costs, it’s about optimising them,” he says.

A representative from FMEC, which offers digital solutions for farm businesses, will also be on hand.

This talk will highlight ways farmers can get more out of production, without necessarily putting more in.

A Q&A session will give audience members the opportunity to quiz the experts to provide a space for airing conversation between machinery manufacturer, software solutions and the farmers who will benefit from what they have to offer.

Throughout the event, Yagro’s team of farm-data experts will be demonstrating the Yagro Platform, explaining how the software is helping farmers understand their arable operations in greater detail and achieve greater returns.

Greater returns

“Whether it’s using field-level data to support decisions around land allocation or displaying a feature to help monitor in-season spend, our team will be approachable and willing to talk around your individual needs.”

The interaction between input prices, rates and efficacy – and their impact on profitability are highlighted in Yagro’s 2024 Chemical & Fertiliser Review, which will be launched at Cereals. It includes budgeting advice and crop-level gross margins.

The panel discussion takes place at 1.30-2.30pm on the Seed to Shelf stage at Cereals. Yagro is exhibiting

Cereals 2024


Cattle at higher risk of liver fluke problems

Consider vaccination this spring

High levels of liver fluke this spring mean farmers should consider clostridial vaccination and control to avoid potentially serious livestock losses.

“Farmers have recently been warned over a later than normal liv-

es, this liver damage could also allow clostridial bacteria to gain a foothold with rapid death often the result.

“Consequently, associated black disease is emerging as a significant and potentially catastrophic issue.

The tissue damage caused by flukes migrating through the liver provides an ideal breeding ground for clostrid

Clostridial toxins kill quickly, and these diseases present few clinical signs before death. As a result, Dr Baxter-Smith says more cattle should be vaccinated with a broad spectrum clostridial disease vaccine such as Bra-

Cattle are at particular risk of liver fluke this spring [photo credit: Agriphoto]

The rise in liver fluke infections and associated black disease is not the only reason broad-spectrum clostridial vaccination has become more popular. Clostridial diseases are responsible for a huge number of costly cattle

As well as blackleg, additional clostridial bacteria have also been identified as causes of sudden death on UK cattle farms – so it makes sense to broaden cover, says Dr Baxter-Smith.

“Clostridial toxins kill quickly

“Clostridial bacteria take the lives of cattle and sheep on a regular basis and are the cause of a significant proportion of the sudden livestock deaths in the UK. These bacteria share the same environment as livestock and are ever-present.

Soil and pasture

“They exist in soil, on pasture, within buildings and even in the tissues and intestines of cattle and sheep. Consequently, improved farm biosecurity measures will be of no benefit in controlling this group of diseases.

“We now advise beef and dairy farmers to take a broader-spectrum vaccination approach to ensure adequate protection – not only for cows, but also for their calves.”

Soil leaching threatens animal health post-turnout

Some 80% of the iodine in the body is found in the thyroid gland. An iodine deficiency is linked to calves being stillborn, says Emily Hall, of nutrition specialists Nettex.”

Supplementing diets

“Iodine deficiencies have also been implicated in poor growth rates, poor milk production and retained placenta.”

Farmers are being encouraged to test soils and return minerals by adapting nutrient management, says Ms Hall.

But this is a long-term strategy and producers are being advised to act sooner by supplementing livestock diets.

A high-iodine bolus such as EnduraBol will compensate for deficiencies in this key mineral, as well as vitamins A, D and E, and any identified shortfalls in copper, cobalt, selenium, manganese, and zinc.

“We suggest farmers act now. A bolus is a cost-effective and easy way to mitigate nutrient deficiencies when soil and the forage quality has been compromised.”

ticular T3 and T4.

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of our Sweetgrass grassland blends, to form a high performing fertiliser for all livestock producers with both productivity and environmental benefits,” says Mandy McAulay, of Origin Fertilisers.

Nutrient release

At the heart of the product is Polysulphate – a mix of sulphur, potassium, magnesium and calcium – all in a prolonged release plant-available form. It provides the exact amount of these essential nutrients required by grass through the growing season.

“The nutrient release has been proven to last for up to 55 days – so not only are grass yields maximised, it also reduces potential leaching of key nutrients from the soil,” explains Ms McAulay.

Nitrogen and phosphate – where required – are added together with a low hygroscopic, specially coated sodium to increase grass palatability and dry matter intake, she adds.

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root and shoot growth, potassium to aid water regulation, magnesium to support photosynthesis, calcium to improve animal health and sodium to improve grass palatability.

“Depending on requirements and the results of soil testing, we can finetune the formulation to deliver a prescription nutrition solution specifically matched to individual soil and crop nutrient needs.”

Sulphur success

Richard Ward of ICL, which mines Polysulphate from under the North Sea, says the multi-nutrient fertiliser has much to offer grassland producers.

“If you look at sulphur for a start, atmospheric levels have diminished significantly over recent years as industry has become more aware of pollution and the farmyard manures and slurries we are all being encouraged to use more of contain very little.

“Yet we know sulphur is essential in driving nitrogen utilisation and building essential crude protein levels in grass. So, if you are not applying sulphur, you won’t be able to get the most out of any of the nitrogen sources you have, including organic ones.

“You’ll probably also have to buy in more inorganic nitrogen to make up the shortfall.

“If you’re going to be relying more on clover and legumes in your grassland in the future, as encouraged by the latest SFI, again Polysulphate is essential in making sure you use all the nitrogen produced by these as effectively as you can.”

Proven benefits

Trials have shown this sustained nutrient supply can help deliver a 29% increase in grass yields with a 10% increase in drymatter.

“All in all, these improvements lead to denser, heavier, more nutrient-rich forage which, combined with the increased palatability and digestibility from a lift in sugars of over 9%, produces healthier, more productive animals for the same, or less, cost.”

Origin Fertilisers technical director Peter Scott says the company’s own trials on Polysulphate have highlighted improvements in the all-important crude protein of forage.

“We’ve seen positive trends in terms of forage yield, but it’s in the area of nutritional value and mineral content where we have seen the biggest gains,” he explains.

“In one particular trial we saw a significantly improved N:S ratio in forage which resulted in a 56.3% lift in the amount of sulphur contained in the forage and a corresponding crude protein increase of nearly 7.5%.

“By combining the benefits of Polysulphate with the added palatability from Sweetgrass’ sodium and the protected nitrogen and potash from our Poly Power range, Sweet Poly Power is a fertiliser with significant benefits for grassland producers.”


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Taking the stress out of compliance

Energy & Technology

High Street help for farmers to invest in green energy

• Preferential rates on borrowing

• Access to preferred suppliers

• Help to reduce farm emissions

Britain’s biggest supermarket has joined forces with one of the UK’s biggest banks to of fer farmers a green energy finance package.

Retail giant Tesco and NatWest have come together to launch a dis counted climate and sustainable fi nance scheme – giving 1,500 of the supermarket’s suppliers preferential rates on borrowings to invest in green energy.

els, wind turbines and heat pumps, the agreement covers biomass boilers, LED lighting, battery storage and combined heat and power.

Renewable energy

The scheme aims to help producers adopt sustainable farming methods. It covers the installation of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, and fossil fuelfree heating or cooling systems, such as heat pumps.

Eligible farmers include those who belong to Tesco’s Sustainable Farming Groups for beef, lamb and dairy. They will gain access to Tesco’s preferred suppliers, with potential volume discounts offered on renewable energy assets.

Tesco chief commercial officer Ashwin Prasad said: “The initiative will provide our farmers with the confidence to invest in sustainable farming methods and infrastructure, while also helping us meet our [net zero] targets.”

Keen adopters

Dairy farmer Dave Jones, who is also chairman of Tesco’s Sustainable Dairy Group, said many milk producers were keep to adopt more sustainable production methods like installing renewable energy technology on farm.

Dairy armers are keen to adopt renewable energy, says Dave Jones

“Farmers need confidence to invest

“Accessing financial support for significant projects like this remains a barrier for many farmers,” said Mr Jones. The Tesco and NatWest partnership could help overcome this hurdle and reduce farm emissions.”

Peter Huish, Head of Consumer Industries at NatWest Group, said: “We strongly believe that to deliver a more sustainable future, partnering with leading UK consumer companies such as Tesco, and their supply chains, will be critical.

“This initiative further contributes to the UK’s climate goals and food security, as well as to NatWest’s pledge to provide £100bn of climate and sustainable funding and financing by the end of 2025.”

AMC launches loan for sustainable farming

The Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (AMC) has launched a new loan to help farmers switch to more sustainable practices.

The Clean Growth Financing Initiative (CGFI) provides discounted lending to help the British agricultural sector reduce its environmental impact, explained AMC national sales director Lee Baker.

With a zero per cent arrangement fee for eligible projects, the loan can be used to finance a broad range of green investments from the purchase of low-carbon machinery

to renewable energy infrastructure.

The new product will help farmers benefit from a low carbon economy. It could also advance sector improvements across priority areas including water, waste, energy use, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.


Investment options including energy supply upgrades such as solar panels and heat pumps, adding eco-pods or sustainable camping to farms, enhancing wastewater

treatment systems, and more sustainable production methods.

Mr Baker said: “These will help customers stabilise their energy costs and operate more sustainably, both in terms of the environment and financially, which are both vital steps towards future-proofing farms and businesses.”

A streamlined approval process and flexible financing will help farmers adopt sustainable practices in an accessible way, with many projects not requiring additional eligibility assessments, he added.


Farm walk explores benefits of miscanthus

Farmers are invited to attend a free farm walk to see how miscanthus ccopes with the UK’s increasingly unpredictable weather –including the crop’s capacity to thrive on flooded land.

This event will take place from 9.30am to 4pm on Wednesday, 15 May. Held courtesy of miscanthus growers Bill and Tom Lewis at Abbey Farm, near Kings Lynn, Norfolk, it will be followed by a tour of Snetterton biomass power plant.

The visit is being co-hosted by miscanthus specialist Terravesta, NIAB and the AF Group.

Visitors will learn about growing, harvesting and supplying baled miscanthus to the Snetterton plant. Discussion will include the crop’s carbon sequestration capabilities.

Bill Lewis says the farm’s 30ha of miscanthus has proved to be a lucrative cropping option. “The price for miscanthus increases every year, as has our yield, and Snetterton power station has a long-term commitment to using the fuel.”

and miscanthus is a secure buffer for the farm when cereal prices continue to be volatile, and weather becomes increasingly unpredictable,” he says. Terravesta has a long-term contract to supply 25,000 tonnes of miscanthus annually into the Snetterton pow-

tract to supply Brigg renewable energy power plant in north Lincolnshire.

Farmers attending the event will be given a 10% discount on the cost of planting miscanthus for spring 2025. For full details about the walk, visit www.terravesta.com/events learn about planting, managing and harvesting miscanthus

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New initiative to drive production efficiency

• Integrates multiple new technologies

• Production and environment together

• Role of technology in IPM evaluated

New technology has the potential to lift production to new heights of efficiency while delivering a new era of sustainable food production for growers.

But the biggest benefits will be achieved through a synergy of different technologies working together to inform best practice with a level of detail and farm-specific insight that could only have been dreamt of a few years ago.

“We’re entering an era where farming by averages is rapidly being replaced,” says Agrii digital agronomy development manager Lucy Cottingham. Crops perform better when management is based on accurate and individual data, she adds.

“Whether it’s using inputs as costeffectively as possible, minimising potential environmental issues, reducing the carbon footprint of production or optimising yields from available resources, data will become the agronomist’s most powerful tool.

“The biggest wins will come from combining data from a variety of sources and technologies and turning this into in-field agronomic and management practices capable of truly transforming farming businesses.”

Better decisions

With this in mind, Agrii’s Digital Technology Farm (DTF) initiative slots neatly into the company’s wider R&D strategy. It focuses on using several connected technologies that can be used to make agronomic decisions at field scale throughout the growing season, says Ms Cottingham.

“Our aim is to bring the field of the future to our agronomists and growers today through data gathered from a variety of digital tools and technologies in a connected way to both support and drive crop management decisions throughout the year.

“Furthermore, this will give us the opportunity to develop, evaluate and

demonstrate the most effective technology at commercial farm scale and share this with our customers.

“By comparing standard farm practices alongside decisions informed by our combined new technologies, we aim to identify not just greater efficiency but real benefits on a farm’s triple bottom line too.”

Integrated technologies

According to Agrii’s technology trials manager Jonathan Trotter, the first of the DTF centres to be up and running is at the 2400ha Revesby Estate near Boston in Lincolnshire with three others now set up.

“The idea behind DTF is to understand how we can leverage and integrate different technologies to make decisions on-farm and see how they can enhance decision making compared to a traditional agronomic approach.

“So, for example, the Skippy Scout drone system can monitor above ground crop growth and information from this could be enhanced by data on below ground nitrogen levels from in-situ soil nitrogen sensors such as Plentysense nitrogen blades.

“These sense nitrogen-availability at three different levels in the soil –10cm, 20cm and 40cm. A telemetry head on top of them tells us soil nitrogen content in real time.”

Multiple benefits

“We can then understand how the nitrogen is moving through the soil profile to help improve decision making around nitrogen management.

“This data can be combined with from Soiltech Wireless soil moisture and temperature sensors dug into the ground – and all the information we are collecting can link to Agrii’s Rhiza online Contour platform.”

The combination of technologies should provide a new level of crop management information and insight in the future, he says.

Jonathan Trotter: Integrated technology can improve on-farm decision-making

“The successful integration of these technologies could, for example, be used to produce detailed fieldby-field crop nutrition and agronomy plans.

“Such precise data and knowledge could deliver significant advantages, not just in terms of overall production efficiency, but also with regard to cutting waste and farming in line with environmental requirements.

“There are other benefits too, says Mr Trotter, including the whole IPM piece in terms of validation and justification of action.

“To have the data to say ‘this is the issue we needed to address, this how we treated it and this is the result’ is going to be of huge value moving forward,” he adds.

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New technology ‘key to farming future

Agri-tech to play defining role

More investment is needed to harness the full benefits of technology for food and farming, say business leaders.

Nearly half of all decision-makers in the combined agri-food industries (48%) say innovation or investment is lacking in their supply chain – with one in four farm business leaders describing new technology as a top priority for their company.

Key priorities

The findings were published to coincide with the launch of the UK Agri-Tech Centre – the new single body formed from the merger of the UK’s three agri-tech centres focusing on crops, livestock and engineering.

The UK Agri-Tech Centre commissioned the research to better understand the priorities of agri-food businesses – and help inform its strategy as it strives to increase agri-innovation at unprecedented levels.

UK Agri-Tech Centre chief executive Phil Bicknell said: “Agri-tech can unlock solutions to many of the major issues facing the agriculture and food sector and the UK’s food security challenges.

“We can now help more business-

es access funding and play a key role in de-risking investment for private funders by strengthening the connec tions between science and R&D to de liver an adoption pathway for commer cial solutions.”

Attracting investment

More than half of UK food industry businesses (51%) say adopting new technologies is a key business priori ty for the next five years. But 39% of R&D and technology leaders saying ac cess to funding is restricting take-up. This was followed by a lack of re source and time (38%) and attracting investment (27%) as the top three most common barriers to agri-tech development and adoption – something the UK Agri-Tech Centre aims to encourage.

Agri-tech can address some of the major issues facing farming, says Phil Bicknell

The UK Agri-Tech Centre will be a gateway for funding and investment through its strategic programmes: Connect, Inspire, Grow and Adopt, These aim to provide a framework for accelerating innovation by taking solutions from idea to impact.

Artificial intelligence

Growth and expansion of their core business is the key business priority

“We can help businesses access funding

for 58% of agriculture and food business leaders over the next five years. This is followed by becoming more sustainable (40%).

Some 38% of food businesses want to explore new technologies relating to food security with 31% looking at resilient food systems. Meanwhile, 28% want to explore the potential of AI and machine learning to support their business.

Just over one in four (26%) agrifood businesses said they wanted to explore robotics and automation. This was one of the best-performing agritech areas in 2023, with global investment increasing 9% last year.

Ag-tech deal to benefit farmers worldwide

Agco and technology company Trim ble have completed the formation of a new company to factory fit and ret rofit precision equipment to farm machinery.

Known as PTx Trimble, the venture aims to give farmers greater access to next-gen eration precision agriculture tools – no mat ter what brands of tractors and implements they operate.

Agco has an 85% stake in PTx Trimble, with Trimble holding a 15% stake. Going forward, the joint venture will be consol idated into Agco’s financial statements.

“Farmers worldwide need technologies that support them to be more productive and profitable while minimising the envi ronmental impact of their operations,” said Agco president Eric Hansotia.

Enhanced offering

The formation of PTx Trimble enhances Agco’s technology offer around guidance, autonomy, precision spraying, connected farming, data management and sustainability.

Increasing farm efficiency with guidance technology

“Farmers are the real winners here,” said Trimble president Rob Painter. “By combining our expertise, we believe this joint venture will help farmers to accelerate the pace of innovation.

open technologies, our customers will benefit from tech solutions available to farmers across a broad range of tractor and implement brands.”

Energy & Technology






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Five-point plan to navigate farming’s financial storm

steer a way through challenges facing farmers, says Sam Dale

Record rainfall has significantly increased financial pressures on farm businesses – but action can be taken to tackle many challenges.

Large areas of farmland remain waterlogged following the wettest 18 months on record. The wet winter and spring have left some farms facing the first season without a harvest since World War Two.

Farmers should try to embrace resilience

of your business is crucial. Regularly analyse production costs, including fertiliser, seed, and labour. By knowing your numbers, you can make informed decisions and identify areas for costsaving or efficiency improvements.

2) Identify your marketing and purchasing strategy: Develop a clear strategy for marketing your products and purchasing. Being proactive in your marketing and purchasing can help secure better prices and manage risk.

3) Understand the wider industry and market: Stay informed about broader agricultural trends, market conditions, and policy changes. This awareness will enable you to anticipate challenges and recognise opportunities.

4) Utilise available tools to reduce risk and volatility: Take advantage of risk management tools and government schemes such as Sustainable Farming Incentive to diversify income and reduce dependency on volatile markets.

5) Establish a diverse business model: Create a diversified business model. This could include a mix of agriculture enterprises and environmental schemes. Whilst diversification could include services such as a farm shop or Agritourism, it does not have to.

It is easy at the moment to feel discouraged because of the weather but I would encourage farmers not give up hope. Try to keep sight of the bigger picture. Risk and volatil-

ity are here to stay and are probably going to become more extreme.

Tools available can help farm businesses build resilience. Realistically, we seem to be looking at a three or four year farming cycle these days. Previously it was arguably a seven to ten year cycle.

The five-point plan won’t make volatility and risk disappear – but it can help make businesses more resilient and agile.

Defra’s free Farm Business Advice Service (FBAS) can provide a useful second opinion from a different perspective.

Risk and volatility are here to stay

Farmers live and breathe their businesses but that can make it hard to take a step back and find a different way of operating. Through the FBAS scheme, many farms have had positive discussions. Finding a trusted partner to kick start change can help.

We’ve seen the highs in recent times, with wheat at almost £400/tonne. But we’ve also seen fertiliser at nearly £1000/tonne. On the livestock side, sheep prices are high but pig prices have been in the doldrums.

Different options

Schemes such as Sustainable Farming Incentive are worth looking at, particularly on the arable side. But it is important to recognise that different businesses have different options to help manage costs.

This could be using manure, muck or slurry to reduce your inorganic fertilizer inputs. When we saw fertiliser at nearly £1,000/t, we saw farmers with available slurry and manure using it in ways that they maybe hadn’t done previously.

Applying it to standing crops in the spring can help keep a lid on nitrogen costs. It’s not for everyone, there are other ways to achieve this, like straw for muck deals, for example. That’s one way of helping reduce exposure a little bit to the wider market volatility.

Another example is that we are seeing is a well-managed herbal lay that can extend a grazing season, so that should hopefully reduce the amount of time that livestock need to be inside cutting straw costs, and other costs associated with housing livestock. Sam Dale is a farm business consultant at GSC Grays, which offers a free farm business advice service funded by Defra’s Future Farm Resilience Fund.

MIDLAND FARMER 45 Professional services
Farms are still dealing with the aftermath of widespread flooding
Give Simon a call on 07825 193278 or email: enquiries@tilhill.com tilhill.com For farmers looking to plant trees, we offer a unique partnership to design, plant and manage the trees and sell the carbon units for you.

‘til death do us part

The untimely


of a farming friend is a lesson for us all, says Clodhopper

Looking back, you are able to look forward. The last of my farming friends has decided to call it a day. These words were the start of a recent article summarising my friend’s decision to retire.

It had not an easy decision for him, mainly because it arrived few years earlier than he expected. Even so, he felt deep down that it was the right decision despite being somewhat premature.

Having given me the news two days before the festive season began, I wished him a Happy Christmas and good cheer for the New Year. We agreed a firm date to meet up in early January. But then tragedy occurred. He felt unwell and called for help. Sad-

ly, he passed away a few minutes later and died in his early sixties – a huge shock for all concerned. He was a genuine gentleman and a kind-hearted soul. No one had a bad word for him.

Lessons learned

But perhaps like many farming families which seem to go through separation and divorce, there is a lesson to be learned here. Why? Because, for various reasons it seems, divorce rates are through the roof in farming families.

This makes it all the more important to get your affairs in order. Having understood the need to take early retirement my friend was proactive in organising his affairs – including his finances and legal matters.

But not all advice is good advice – and looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the advice he received was somewhat vague and yet at the same time somewhat complicated too.

Untimely death

A straightforward farming partnership divided into various limited companies and trust funds may have seemed for my friend both tax efficient and sensible at the time. But not so much following his untimely death.

The farm is now a battleground for the families left behind. Not so much for the immediate family but certainly for the second or third generations involving distant families and distant offspring.

There are lots of questions. How many agreements and last wishes can a farmer have on his death bed? How many were signed and

which one was the last one? The last one may be the most recent but did it have final approval?

Then there are the newer family members who are worrying they will lose out after being demoted down the pecking order in favour of the older family members.

Mistaken belief

Lack of time is sadly one of the most common reasons for not making proper provision in the event of one’s death. The other common reason is the mistaken belief that without a will, everything passes to the spouse or civil partner.

But it ain’t necessarily so. Farming families are often more complex and less straightforward than other families. Perhaps one child farms but the other works away. So how do you reward both equally? Indeed, is equal even fair?

Over the last few months, I’ve listened to several farming families big and small despairing over the wrong wording or misplaced sentence in a will which is causing havoc after death.

It all highlights the need for proper and up-to-date advice. Getting it right is more important than ever. But achieving this is often difficult – and certainly more easily said than done.

Having tried to be fair for all his farming career, my good friend is potentially leaving behind problems. It’s not something any of us like to talk about but talk about death we must. Don’t leave your nearest and dearest to fight your battles.



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