Page 1

September 2021

Midland

Farmer

Winter livestock: How supplements can help farmers get more from forage

Serving the farming industry across the Midlands

Crop establishment News Thieves target high-tech How cover crops can bridge BPS gap farm equipment Arable Funding for fight against flea beetle

Livestock Top tips for feeding silage this winter

Forestry Benefits from better hedge management Clodhopper Retirement scheme is fundamentally flawed

Sunny delight Farmed flowers raise £2m for charity

Tel: 01480 495956 www.flr-cropdrying.com


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Concrete Flooring Specialist Flooring Specialist MidlandConcrete OPINION Johann Tasker

SJ STANBERRY & SONS LTD SJ STANBERRY & SONS LTD See us at Agri Expo - March 7th

Farmer EDITORIAL Editor:

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

Design:

See us at Agri Expo March 7th Clampdown on- organic • INDUSTRIAL, AGRICULTURA RAL A manure is unworkable • INDUSTRIAL, AGRICULTURA RAL A

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

OR COMMERCIAL OR COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING SALES rop nutrition plans are in turmoil It has been suggested that manure applications •after INT Tmust ERNAL OR EXTERNAL the Environment Agency decided farmers not be planned on land with a slope greater jump through numerous hoops before eight degrees, light in soil type with P indices • INT Tand ERNAL OR EXTERNAL STEEL FIXING spreading organic manure this autumn (see of 3 or above or• that has been sub soiled or mole page 10). drained within 12 months. • STEEL FIXING On any level, the agency’s move to potentially But asTAMP has been pointed none of these • BRU USH, ORout,POWER factors are regulatory. limit and even prohibit the spreading of manure, Perhaps TAMP most confusingly, however, the slurry and biosolids is a truly bizarre decision. • BRU Uagency’s SH, OR POWER FLOAT FINISHES And it was one greeted with surprise, shock and interpretation of the rules flies in the face then anger. of Defra’s efforts to encourage farmers to improve FLOAT FINISHES It means laboratory analysis of all manures the structure and organic content of their soils – a cornerstone of government policy. will be essential to know their total and available • FOUNDATIONS nutrient content before they can be spread this Applying organic manure to fields is a centuriesautumn. Soil testing every field for nutrients must way to improve soil health. It is also a key • FOUNDATIONS •old POULTRY UNITS AND way to dispose of treated sewage sludge which also be undertaken. was – until recently – pumped out to sea at great The agency’s interpretation of the government’s POULTRY UNITS AND environmental cost. Farming Rules for Water is confused and lacking in • STABLE YARDS Who knows where those biosolids will end clarity. And many farmers will find it unworkable up now? But that is the least of many worries – particularly the requirement to plan nutrient STABLE YARDS • MforATERIAL ADVICE AND farmers who now face significant changes to applications so as not to exceed soil and crop needs. the way they store and spread manure – and a The rules were introduced three years ago. •M ATERIAL ADVICE AND COSTING signifi cant cost too. But the agency says large amounts of organic manure are still being applied to arable stubbles Johann Tasker, • SILO each autumn – even though there is no crop need COSTING BASES Editor or where phosphate levels are already sufficient. • SILO BASES RONS & SHED FLOORS • APR RAEROBIC ONS & SHED FLOORS •APR AN N DIGESTION Contents Vol 10 • No 9 ••September 2021 •4 AN NAEROBIC DIGESTION TANK BASES News .................................................................... Winter livestock .............................................31 Arable .................................................................. 9 Farm forestry ................................................. 39 TANK BASES • GRAIN, POTATO Crop establishment ......................................21 Final say ........................................................... 46& • GRAIN, POTATO MACHINERY STORES& Competitive prices STORES •MACHINERY PATHS, PATIOS AND SHORT OF for all your agriculturalAND & • PATHS,DRIVEWAYS PATIOS STORAGE industrial DRIVEWAYS requirements & • GROUNDWORKS SPACE? CONTACT • GROUNDWORKS US & PREPARATION NOW! PREPARATION BOWIE Advertisement production:

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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. 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 2021

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SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 3


News Cost of rural crime falls but remains big problem • Crime drops by more than 20% • Hi-tech equipment still targeted • Warning over lockdown easing

T

he cost of rural theft fell by 25.3% across the Midlands last year as the pandemic kept thieves out of the countryside Thefts cost an estimated £7.9m in 2020, according to the latest figures from rural insurer NFU Mutual. The decline exceeds a fall of 20.3% to £43.3m across the UK as a whole – making it the lowest annual cost recorded in five years. But highly-organised criminal gangs continued to plague farms – stealing GPS systems, agricultural vehicles and tools as they focus on smaller, high-value targets to get more “bang for their buck”.

Crime wave UK-wide cost of claims for stolen GPS systems almost doubled last year to £2.9m, as global demand for hi-tech kit fuelled the crime wave. Other rural crimes, including dog attacks on livestock and fly-tipping rose sharply. The value of sheep and cattle attacked by dogs shot up by 10.2% in 2020 to £1.3m. The situation continues to worsen with NFU Mutual warning that the cost of attacks rose 50% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. Fly-tipping in fields, gateways and country lanes reached epidemic proportions as waste recycling centres restricted access, leaving farmers to deal with the clean-up and risks to their health and that of their livestock and the environment. Beefed-up security NFU Mutual Midlands region manager Mike Adler said: “Coronavirus restrictions, beefed-up security on farms and more effective rural crime policing provided a welcome fall in rural thefts last year.” But Mr Adler warned: “Rural crime hasn’t gone away. Thieves are now returning armed with new tactics and targets. As the economic impact of the pandemic bites, we are very concerned that rural theft may escalate significantly. “Last year saw sharp rises in other crimes such as dog attacks on livestock which caused appalling suffering to farm animals and huge anxiety for farmers and their families as they dealt with the aftermath.” Mr Adler said NFU Mutual was continuing to work with police, farmers, communities and other rural organ4 MIDLAND FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2021

Police check a tractor to ensure it isn’t stolen

Thieves are returning with new tactics and targets.

isations to tackle rural crim. It was investing more than £430,000 in rural security schemes – helping to recover more stolen machinery. “We believe this is vital support because rural crime isn’t just about money to replace stolen tractors. It causes disruption, seriously affects farmers’ mental well-being and destroys the trust which enables rural communities to flourish.” Farmers and other rural residents should report suspicious sightings and crimes to the police, said Mr Adler. “By working together, we can help stem the tide when the criminals become more active again.” Over the past two years, NFU Mutual has invested over £850,000 in the fight against rural crime – including a UKwide agricultural vehicle crime tracking and recovery unit working with police forces, Border Force and Interpol.

New AHDB service offers bespoke farm advice

A

new Farm Business Review service from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board aims to help 4,000 farmers secure a better future. The free, independent service combines an online self-assessment tool, expert advice and peer support to help businesses prepare for the biggest agricultural policy shift in a generation. The easy-to-use tool illustrates how the loss of direct payments will affect individual farms. It then allows users to evaluate their business resilience and performance – and decide what action to take. Funded by the £3.9m AHDB secured from the Defra Future Farm-

ing Resilience Fund, the service is designed for beef, sheep, dairy, cereals and oilseeds producers. Results from the Farm Business Review tool, will see special advice given to 600 farmers with the greatest need for additional support. AHDB head of business resilience Steve Dunkley said: “With reductions in BPS payments having started, taking a wait-and-see approach isn’t an option for farmers who have been most dependant on this income.” The AHDB says its Farm Business Review service will run until February 2022. For further details, visit https:// ahdb.org.uk/farm-business-review.


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News

Farm sunflowers generate £2m for wildlife charity

A

Lincolnshire farm has raised £2m for wildlife conservation – by growing bird seed – including 40ha of sunflowers. The black sunflower seeds are grown by Vine House Farm at Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding. They are part of 160ha ha of bird seed crops, which go into wild bird food mixes, along with red millet, canary seed, oil seed rape and naked oats. Thanks to farmer and award-winning conservationist Nicholas Watts, the farm is a haven for flocks of wild birds including tree sparrows, red-listed linnets and lapwing. Money raised over 14 years supports the conservation work of the Wildlife Trusts. The farm is managed by Mr Watts’ daughter Lucy Taylor. “It’s been a proud time for me, my father and all our family to be able to reach the £2m milestone,” she said. “Now we look forward to the future and being able to eventually reach £5m and more.” Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett said the Watts family had enabled many other people to experience the joy of nature. “We are extremely grateful to Nicholas and his family for their support and look forward to working with them for years to come.” Money raised is used top restore wildflower meadows, and wetlands, and enable more people to feel the

health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature. Vine House Farm customers play an important part too, helping wildlife thrive.

More customers Mr Watts said the Covid-19 pandemic had seen more customers than ever coming to the farm for expert advice and wild garden bird food. It was important to offer a range of feed so each bird was able to eat what it needed. Although Vine House Farm is a commercial business supplying the general public, growing wild bird seed mixes will become increasingly important under the government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management scheme. The AB9 winter bird food option which currently pays £640/ha under mid- and higher-tier Countryside

Stewardship provides important food resources (small seeds) for farmland birds, especially in autumn and winter. A similar option is set to be introduced under the ELM scheme, which is due to be up and running by 2024. The scheme is expected to be an important source of farm income following the phase-out of basic payments.

Nicholas Watts and daughter Lucy Taylor [photo credit: Matthew Roberts]

Call for clampdown on fly-tipping

L

andowners have joined more than 150 local councils and organisations to call for tougher action against fly-tippers. The Country Land & Business Association said current sentences failed to match the severity of the offence committed – or fairly reflect the costs incurred by local councils and private landowners forced to clear up the mess. CLA deputy president Mark Tufnell said: “Flytipping continues to wreck the lives of many of

us living and working in the countryside. “It’s not just the odd bin bag but large household items, from unwanted sofas to broken washing machines, building materials and even asbestos being dumped across our countryside.” The maximum fine for fly-tipping is £50,000 or 12 months in prison if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court. Mr Tufnell said it was crucial that the Sentencing Council listened to concerns to ensure offenders faced justice.

Free advice on the future of farming

L

incolnshire’s farmers and growers can access free, tailored business advice from the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network this autumn and winter. The Farm for the Future programme, coordinated by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and funded by Defra, aims to help businesses as the industry faces major changes to funding and support over the next six years. Through workshops and one-to-one support, the Farm for the Future programme will help those in Lincolnshire to better understand how the Government’s Agricultural Transition Plan will affect the future of their business.

6 MIDLAND FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2021

It will provide business support so farmers can manage the upcoming changes and make informed decisions about the future

of their farm business and discover opportunities with Environmental Land Management schemes that may benefit their farm. LRSN head of charity Amy Thomas said: “The programme will take a whole farm and whole family approach and provide muchneeded practical business advice, tailored to Lincolnshire’s farmers’ and growers’ needs.” Any tenant or owner-occupied farm currently in receipt of BPS in England is eligible to join the programme. Workshops will be held at venues in the north and south of the county from this October. For details, call 07725 203560 or visit www. lrsn.co.uk.


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Arable Fight against flea beetle gets fresh funding injection

Cabbage stem flea beetle on a young oilseed rape plant

• £1.8m against cabbage stem flea beetle • Industry is working to combat problem • Resistant varieties are potential solution

R

esearchers working to combat a cabbage stem flea beetle in oilseed rape have secured a fresh injection of funds. The £1.8m BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award will help scientists at the John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research work with industry partners to find much-needed solutions to tackle the devastating pest. UK crop losses to flea beetle were estimated at 6.4% in 2016/17 rising to 15% in some counties. Some crops were written off entirely. The pest is increasingly problematic since neonicotinoid-based pesticides were banned as seed treatments. The escalation has led to questions over the future of the UK oilseed rape crop. Although high prices have seen some growers return to the crop, the oilseed rape area declined by 35% between 2012 and 2019. In place of pesticide use which is damaging to biodiversity, the researchindustry partnership led by the John Innes Centre is implementing an integrated pest management approach. Key to this is the use of pest resistant oilseed rape cultivars. The project will enable research-

ers to identify genetic markers – landmarks within the crop genome. Scientists say this will guide breeders in developing resistant varieties of oilseed rape that are less palatable to flea beetle. Further research into the lifecycle and feeding preferences of the beetle is being carried out by entomologists and two post-graduate researchers at the John Innes Centre where the first in-house breeding population of the pest was established.

Partnership approach Project manager Rachel Wells, who is the principal investigator of the successful bidding team, said: “This is fantastic news, and it means we can accelerate vital work in combating this significant pest. “The success of the bid has been made possible with the support of a strong network of industrial partners which we have built over time. Through this partnership approach we are addressing an important problem for industry, turning scientific discovery into solutions.” Dr Wells will be working with the group of John Innes Centre colleague

It means we can accelerate vital work aganst this pest

Steve Penfield who is a co-investigator in the project. Industrial Partnership Awards encourage and support collaboration between academic research groups and industry. They are academic-led grants with significant industrial involvement. Industry partners contribute at least equivalent to 10% of the full project costs. Partners in this research project include seven crop breeding companies – DSV, KWS, Limagrain, Bayer, Elsoms, RAGT and LS Plant Breeding – and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board. Rothamsted Research scientific project leader Sam Cook and colleague Frederic Beaudoin will examine the mechanisms that determine the feeding preferences of adult cabbage stem flea beetles – and the survival and development of their larvae. For more about establishing oilseed rape successfully, see page 21.

Winter bean variety extends grower choice

A

new winter bean has been launched by LSPB – the first from the breeder which is well known for its successful spring varieties. Pantani is a candidate for the 2022 PGRO Descriptive List. Two years of official trials results show that it has competitive yields with a set of agronomic characters that offer a contrast to control varieties Wizard

andTundra. A short, stiff strawed and very early maturing variety with a rating of 8, Pantani can spread the harvest workload for growers who already have a larger acreage of winter beans, says LSPB managing director Chris Guest. After limited seed availability in 2021 across the market place, growers are looking again at winter beans to diversify their

rotations and help with the cultural control of blackgrass, says LSPB – especially at the later sowing dates. “With Pantani – and other winter bean varieties we have in the pipeline – we hope we can bring growers the same improved yields and agronomic characters we have brought to spring beans over the years,” explains Mr Guest.

SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 9


Arable

Slurry spreading rules ‘remain unworkable’

F

arm leaders are continuing to highlight industry concerns after the Environment Agency confirmed a stricter approach to spreading organic manures. It follows an agency announcement last month which critics say will prevent many farmers from spreading slurry, manure and sewage sludge on farmland during the autumn and winter months. The latest interpretation of the government’s Farming Rules for Water means farmers must ensure they have a pollution prevention plan in place – and ensure applications to not exceed the needs of the soil or the crop. The government says the decision will allow farmers to continue spreading organic manures. But critics say the interpretation is unworkable – including the requirement for farmers to notify the agency of any applications.

the farming rules for water regulations is being interpreted. “I am deeply disappointed with the content of the statement by the Environment Agency, which sets an idealistic and impractical barrier in many farming situations.”

Wider benefits Mr Roberts said the NFU had made multiple approaches over the past two years urging Defra and the Environment Agency to set achievable objectives to make best use of organic manures, slurries and biowastes. “This seems to have been ignored, and I am still to hear from Defra ministers despite having written twice in recent months. To find ourselves in this situation so close to autumn shows a complete lack of appreciation of the

It shows a lack of appreciation of the bigger picture

bigger picture.” Legislation must be applied in a way that recognised the wider benefits of using organic manures, said Mr Roberts. Organic manures improved soil health – replacing manmade fertilisers while reducing ammonia emissions compared to spring applications. “Farmers have made great strides over recent decades in reducing key agricultural emissions. We’ve seen a major reduction in the amount of manures and fertiliser applied to farmland and held in the soil.”

Voluntary action This meant fewer nutrients reaching rivers. “Much of this progress has been made by farmers taking voluntary action through industry-led initiatives to drive improvements that benefit the water environment, as well as on farm productivity. “We can do more with investment through incentives, such as the Slurry Investment Scheme and the Environmental Land Management scheme, working alongside initiatives such as Catchment Sensitive Farming.” Organic manure spreading faces extra scrutiny this autumn

Independent advice Farmers wishing to spread organic manures should take independent advice to ensure that they understand any potential implications of doing so – and to ensure they are compliant with Farming Rules for Water, says the NFU. Many of the rules are unclear – including an uncertain timescale for measuring potential leaching rates. There is also concern that farmers could incriminate themselves by telling the agency they are spreading manure. NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “This announcement is a missed opportunity to provide much needed clarity for farmers who have significant concerns on how Rule 1 of

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Arable

A growing role for cover crops on your farm EXPERT VIEW Cover crops can smooth the transition to the Sustainable Farming Incentive, says Dick Neale.

W

hen any new technique is employed, its initial benchmark for success is a measure of the financial return it provides over the technique it replaces or enhances. In that respect, catch and cover crops have had a rocky start in their introduction to UK farms. This is largely because the financial positives – or negatives – from a cover crop in the initial stages of introduction are marginal with the potential

for a negative financial impact often overriding the positive. But measuring the success or value of a catch or cover crop based purely on its yield impact in a single fails to recognise the significant improvements in soil structure, biology, nutrient flow and water management that happens over a longer time. As details of the Sustainable Farming Initiative become clearer, there is little doubt that cover crops, reduced cultivation practices, soil assessments and improvement will be central to accessing government support over the coming decade. Due to launch next year, the Sustainable Farming Initiative is part of the government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs). It will be introduced as the basic payment is phased out over the next few years.

Benefits from cover crops include better soil health, nutrient flow and water management, says Dick Neale.

Organic matter Increasingly research is demonstrating the importance of below ground biomass in the building of soil organic matter (SOM) with figures recording over 40% of root matter being retained as SOM while top growth contributes only 8% to SOM. Cash crops must not be forgotten in the process of building SOM but catch and cover crops play a vital role in filling the gaps in rotational cropping, in particular being present during the August to November period when UK soils are traditionally bare from post-harvest cultivation. The value of catch and cover crops is immense when sown earlier during this period to intercept those longer days of sunlight energy and recharge the soils biological battery. For this reason, growers should choose a cover that works for their situation.

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Choice of cover is crucial to performance, addressing issues in individual fields and matching the farm’s management approach out of the cover period – be that grazing, rolling, spraying and direct drilling or cultivation. Cover crops can be used to improve carbon sequestration. Nitrogen ratios within the soil can impact the its ability to ‘digest’ high lignin residue like wheat straw. And they also can be used to slow the ‘burn rate’ of SOM in lighter soil fractions. The focus is knowing what the state the soil is in and what it needs. Cover crops can add significant diversity into rotations and are an ideal opportunity to get legumes into the cropping cycles – and reduce reliance on applied artificial nitrogen.

Reducing risk The following crop must also be considered as there is significant risk of yield reduction where oats or rye form a high proportion of the cover crop mix prior to spring barley or wheat. Where cereals dominate the rotation, utilising oats as the cover adds little in diversification terms. Consistently successful cover crops

Growers should choose a cover that works for their farm

are made up of multiple species. The species mix should be optimised to the targeted impact required while bringing diversity, nutrient fixation, storage and release. Ease of use like seed flow characteristics through air seeders and overall rates of use to fit with smaller air seeder hoppers is a further consideration along with reliability of species with the UK climate. At Hutchinsons, our seed mixtures have been optimised for reliability and performance. Typically, they contain eight species with crop volunteers making it a nine species population. Ratios in the mixtures are adjusted to optimise the area of performance, be that soil structural impact, nutrient release and fixation, water pumping or surface protection. Transition from one cultivation system to another takes time – both for growers to gain confidence and for soil to improve. Now is an ideal time to make the change while support payments remain to help counter the risks and tweaks required for any system as it establishes itself on farm. Dick Neale is technical manager for agronomy company Hutchinsons.

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Arable

Precision biopesticide application under way

D

evising a method for the precision application of fungicides and biopesticides is being investigated in a newly-commissioned project funded by Innovate UK. Following a successful Smart Grant application, a three year feasibility study called SprayBot will take place delivered by Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) in collaboration with Newcastle University, the Small Robot Company and Fotenix. SprayBot will investigate how combining early disease detection techniques such as imaging and spore sensors with robotic machinery can create a system to improve the application of fungicides and biopesticides – reducing overall pesticide use. CHAP sector lead Richard Glass said: “Plant protection products remain an important input for growers, ensuring they can reliably produce crops to feed the world’s rapidly expanding population. “But their risk-based cautionary

use and application could be improved, helping promote the sector’s sustainability and environmental credentials, whilst helping protect the future of the effective chemistry that remains. “Thanks to significant advances within the world of agri-tech, it’s now possible to use targeted ‘variable rate’ applications of other inputs such as nutrition. SprayBot aims to investigate a system that can do the same for fungicides and biopesticides.” It is hoped that SprayBot will give farmers a valuable tool in implementing sustainable farming practises. In doing so, it could proactively help meet the government’s net zero target by improving and reducing inputs.

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Robot Company. Small Robot Company co-founder Sam Watson Jones said SprayBot could enable a new generation of spot treatment chemicals, reduce costs, and significantly reduce the impact on biodiversity. “Microspraying could be game-changing for the industry,” he added. “Up to 95% of chemicals are wasted in the current farming system. Robotic precision application technology will be both economically and environmentally sustainable.”

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Arable

‘Ticking time-bomb’ warning for seed disease resurgence

F

armers are being reminded to test untreated farm-saved seed for diease after Bayer recorded high levels of bunt in trial plots. Cereal seed diseases like bunt (Tilletia tritici) or loose smut (Ustilago tritici or U. nuda) have rarely been seen over the past decade because seed treatments have been very effective at controlling them. But more growers are using untreated farm saved seed and certified seed – prompting concern that efforts to save costs are having unintended consequences, says Kerry Maguire, Bayer’s agronomic solutions manager for arable diseases. Growers who don’t know their seed disease status are gambling by not using a treatment, says Dr Maquire. “Previously well-controlled seed-borne diseases have the potential to emerge unexpectedly and at high levels, causing significant yield loss.” Bayer is conducting the disease resurgence trials at Shelford in Cambridgeshire, and at its Stockbridge Technology Centre in Yorkshire.

The trials began with untreated KWS Basset wheat seed and Cassata barley seed – saved two years ago and split into treated and untreated trial plots. Both received maintenance fungicide sprays during the growing season as required. Treated wheat plots had Redigo Pro (prothioconazole and tebuconazole) applied; while treated barley plots had an application of Raxil Star (prothioconazole, tebuconazole and fluopyram).

Extraordinary results No trial plots at Stockbridge have shown any visible disease yet – but results from year two in the untreated wheat plots at Shelford have been “quite extraordinary,” says Dr Maguire, “Bunt infection in the untreated plots ranged from 6.3% to 28% infection, with an average of 15% of ears infected across the trial. In the barley plots there is a small amount of loose smut, but no net blotch or leaf stripe have been seen yet.” One reason behind the trial was to look at what might happen if seed treatments are no

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Loose smut is more likely when using untreated seed

longer available – and the difficulties growers may then face when growing certified seed crops – and when saving seed for their own use.

Surprising outcome Bayer UK regulator manager Dave Holah says: “We were not expecting to see results in year two, so the Shelford wheat trial is a surprise. We hope that we will be able to clean sufficient seed from the untreated plots to be able to drill again.”


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Arable

Promising results in quest for drought resistant beet • Spring weather is more unpredictable • Trials are encouraging, says breeder • Aim to breed more resilient sugar beet

S

ugar beet breeder SESVanderHave is reporting promising results as it strives to address the challenge of increasingly dry springs. This year saw one of the driest Aprils on record in East Anglia and much of the East Midlands – the UK’s main sugar beet growing area. It is yet another indication of more extreme climatic conditions that may affect crop performance and returns. Drought tolerance is one of several traits on the radar of plant breeders. It is particularly important for

sugar beet because the crop uses increasing amounts of water throughout the season – especially once crops have achieved full cover. Water demand from sugar beet peaks in July and August when yields will suffer if it becomes a limiting factor. On average, annual water demand is between 600-700mm, which can be met without irrigation only if sufficient water is available. Sugar beet requires only half the amount of water required by sugar cane. But prolonged drought can still

reduce sugar yields by up to 50%, says SESVanderHave research and development manager Richard Robinson.

Drought can reduce sugar yields by up to 50%.

Different approaches The key to drought tolerance is to develop physiological and metabolic prop-

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needed. And Mr Robinson believes the most durable solution will be one that combines a number of these strategies rather than simply hoping we can target a single gene. “Drought tolerance is a complex trait. It impacts multiple functions within the plant and therefore potentially the impacts on many genes including those that modify rooting, leaf surface, stomatal opening, and more.” It is a compromise between limiting water loss and the need to absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis to continue, which in turn is the driver for yield. High yields are only

erties that allow a plant to maintain a high degree of tissue hydration, even when water supply is limited. There are four potential scenarios when it comes to developing more resilient sugar beet varieties: 1) Just carry on. Here plants develop normally in normal conditions. This is fine when crops come under stress for short periods. But the risk of significant underperformance increases as stress periods lengthen. 2) Reduce drought damage. Varieties that achieve this are able to reduce the energy and sugar that is used for regrowth or to repair cellular damage which can occur when drought is severe during the growing season. 3) Improve water efficiency. Varieties that require less water for growth. They are adapted to reduced water transpiration during carbon dioxide exchange. They are able to regulate temperature in a number of ways including curling the leaves, wilting or by closing the stomata in times of drought to reduce transpiration. 4) Increased water uptake. Varieties capable of this are capable of developing deep, highly branched roots to ‘dig deeper’ for better absorption of soil water. Which of these four scenarios is the best to adopt depends on the severity and duration of drought events.

Achieving potential Alternatively, the growing season for beet could be adapted to take account of more frequent droughts. In the hot climates of Italy and Spain, there is a shift to autumn sowing. But that is not an option for the UK because bolting would increase. The means a different approach is

Drought tolerance is a complex trait

achieved with high rates of transpiration. For some time, however, SESVanderHave has seen promising varieties in its trials. “What is clear, is that our breeding targets must routinely create varieties that use water more efficiently and withstand heat and drought. Conversely it needs to exploit the rain when it comes to maximise yield,” says Mr Robinson. Results to date are promising with drought tolerant lines losing no more than 10% of yield, where those without any tolerance recording losses of 30% or more.

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Crop establishment How to improve oilseed rape establishment this autumn • Good seedbed and moisture important • Apply fertiliser soon after sowing crop • Devise appropriate nutrient programme

M

oist seedbeds remain key for oilseed rape establishment as high prices encourage growers to return to the crop. “With oilseed rape, it really depends on autumn sowing conditions,” says Natalie Wood country arable agronomist for nutrient specialists Yara. “Last year, we saw an increase as the weather was almost ideal for establishment. If we have enough moisture in that August to mid-September drilling window, we’ll see good establishment conditions again.” Nutrition is a large factor in the successful establishment of oilseed rape. Where possible, Ms Wood suggests the use of seed treatments to increase that initial speed of emergence. Coating the seed ensures that the nutrients in the treatment are concentrated at the source, she says. “This means as soon as the seed germinates and roots start to develop, nutrients are being taken up.” Ms Wood recommends a product containing equal amounts of phosphorous and manganese, both crucial for this early growth stage. Phosphorous assists energy transfer and shoot development, providing a crucial supply for the freshly germinated seed. Manganese plays a role in chlorophyll production, enzyme activation, and carbohydrate metabolism – without it, deficiency will impact photosynthetic efficiency and limit the plant. But how much difference does the right product make? “A trial in 2020 showed weight increases of roots and shoots by about 20%. That can make a difference between a vulnerable growth stage to one more able to cope if flea beetle migration has occurred.” To improve establishment and get the crop away quickly, fertiliser should be applied as soon as possible after

drilling. NPK is ideal as a starter fertiliser. Potassium also helps root growth and water regulation, which is beneficial if a dry spell hits after drilling. “It can be tempting to wait until the crop is up and established before applying,” says Natalie. “But that can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you haven’t set the crop up with its best chance, you can’t expect it to establish very well.”

Positive associations Yara trials have also shown positive associations between NPKS addition and winter survival: a 38% survival rate for NS grades is far below the 90100% when applying an NPKS, in part due to potassium acting as an antifreeze to prevent frost damage. “Looking at trial data, we also saw an increase of 0.21t/ha when placing fertiliser compared to broadcasting,” says Ms Wood. “At current prices, that’s roughly £90/ha.” Having both P and K in your fertiliser will also increase nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). Over nine different

sites, trials reported an average 20% increase in N uptake due to P and K – one site reached 40%, highlighting the importance of P and K for increasing nitrogen uptake. “We need to try and make sure there are no limiting factors as the crop moves through its growth stages pre-winter,” says Ms Wood. Key micronutrients important for oilseed rape in particular include magnesium, calcium, boron, manganese, and molybdenum. “If conditions are right, rape can put on a lot of biomass in the autumn, which risks deficiencies.” Taking care of micronutrients will ensure there are fewer limiting factors and trials show an increase of about 310kg/ha from an application in the autumn and the spring – so micronutrient applications represent a good return on investment. Looking ahead to 2022, Ms Wood says taking the right steps mean it is possible to give oilseed rape the best start and take advantage of higher prices. For this reason, more people are expected to grow the crop this season. “If it’s possible and you still have capacity, give your seed the best possible start with a nutritional seed treatment. In addition, at drilling – or as soon as possible afterwards – apply an NPKS fertiliser to ensure key nutrients are not limited.”

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SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 21


Crop establishment

Fertiliser applicator ticks boxes for organic farm • New machine has bespoke design • Larger than standard 1500L hopper • Suits conventional and organic crops

I

mproving fertiliser application accuracy across different row widths is improving productivity on a Cambridgeshire organic farm. Based just outside March, fifth generation Bedlam Farms Organic has supplied niche vegetables – including asparagus, broccoli, fennel and artichokes – to the UK’s major supermarket chains since 2006. The company invested in a new Placement Pro Air applicator from Cambridgeshire-based Techneat Engineering last autumn to reduce wastage and eliminate the need for additional inter-row weed control, explains company director Tobias Martin. “As it has for many UK businesses, Brexit has admittedly had an impact, particularly on staff retention – but I think we’ve shown great resilience and the future for the organic business looks very strong.”

Flexible requirement Before the purchase of the Placement Pro Air last year, Bedlam Farms used a traditional broadcast spreader. It worked well for conventional crops – but didn’t offer the flexibility needed for organic crops, many of which are grown on different row widths. “Without the placement accuracy we needed, a follow-on problem was that fertiliser was often placed in the spaces between crop rows leading to product wastage and an eventual build up of weeds requiring more time spent on additional weed control.” Mr Martin approached Techneat Engineering following a recommendation from the farm’s fertiliser supplier. The need for a new fertiliser applicator was discussed and Techneat agreed to design and build one. Bigger hopper The new Placement Pro Air applicator is a larger than standard 1500L hopper – saving time spent on re-filling. 22 MIDLAND FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2021

The front-mounted Placement Pro Air with 1500L hopper on a John Deere 6135

More importantly, it has a fully adjustable set of repositionable outlets across the width of the boom to cover all different row widths we needed. By November, Techneat had delivered the new machine with managing director Tom Neat personally supervising the calibrating and testing together with some staff training to help us reduce set up time. “Like most of the Techneat range, the machine is simple to operate, quick to set up and easy to calibrate,” says Mr Martin. “Overall build quality is excellent with stainless steel components to ensure accurate, corrosion free operation.”

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number of outlets flexibly positioned along the full width of the boom to conform with any row width required. The Placement Pro Air has its own electronic control system to control forward speed and application rates that can run independently or be linked to the John Deere’s own GreenStar guidance system if desired. The simple and robust design means there have been no maintenance issues since purchase. Nozzle spacing alterations take around 3040 minutes to re-set the machine for different crops so there is very little ‘stop-start’ either. “Going forward we have an option to mount a cultivator on the tractor to work in tandem with the new applicator when applying starter fertiliser. This would further reduce crop passes helping to protect our soil as well as reducing fuel costs.”


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Crop establishment

Profitable wheat production despite blackgrass challenge

W

inter wheat can deliver decent profits – despite a high blackgrass seed burden, according to one of the country’s leading arable trial sites. Agrovista’s Lamport AgX site in Northamptonshire is examining how rotations, cover cropping and regenerative agriculture principles can interact to improve soil health and yields while maintaining blackgrass levels at manageable levels. Over the years, Agrovista has refined an autumn cover crop and spring cereal rotation to keep blackgrass under control. It is a tough testing ground, situated on heavy, high calcium soils that are difficult to manage, with a background blackgrass population of 2000 plants per square metre. A cover crop, based on black oats, is established in early autumn after a light cultivation to maximise blackgrass establishment, before bulking up to condition and drain heavy soils over winter for spring drilling. The cover crop and ‘trapped’ black-grass are sprayed off ahead of the spring cereal, which is direct-drilled to minimise soil dis-

turbance and blackgrass emergence. “The aim is to get lots of blackgrass to germinate in the autumn, and none in the spring,” says technical manager Mark Hemmant. “Everything else bolts on around this.” While spring cereals have been the cash crop of choice so far, recent work has shown that a return to winter wheat is feasible, but perhaps only one year in three where the resistant blackgrass seed burden remains very high – even after eight years of cultural and chemical controls.

Legume fallow – AB15 One option to help farmers return to winter wheat uses a legume fallow, based on the Countryside Stewardship AB15 option. The official option was tweaked because it became swamped with blackgrass after being drilled in August – as per the guidelines – and it became puddled in the winter. Niall Atkinson, consultant and trials coordinator at Lamport AgX, says: “It has done nothing to date for blackgrass control or soil health, and environmentally the mowing

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stipulated in the scheme has been a bit of a disaster.” In the alternative option, a black oat and phacelia cover crop was established in August 2018 to trap blackgrass and condition the soil. It was desiccated the following January and again just before the AB15 legume mix was established in the spring. “The mix grew away very well and we didn’t need to carry out successive mowing to control blackgrass. We sprayed it off in August 2020 and in October established winter wheat with a direct drill to minimise blackgrass germination,” says Mr Atkinson. “You can see the odd blackgrass plant but control is very acceptable – the wheat looks like a 10-12t/ha crop.” The winter wheat will be followed by a return to the cover crop/spring crop sequence for at least two years. “A second winter wheat might appear tempting, especially at current wheat prices,” says Mr Hemmant. “But blackgrass explodes. Even after seven years of very low seed return we still haven’t depleted the weed seed bank sufficiently to be able to rely on chemistry.” The modified AB15 is not allowed under mid-tier rules, being spring drilled, but could be under the Sustainable Farming Incentive. But, if the legume mix still has to be grown

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on 5 September 2019, trapping blackgrass and conditioning the soil. It was desiccated in early January and spring oats were directdrilled on 27 March 2020 and went on to yield just under 8t/ha. “We then direct-drilled winter wheat in mid-October when conditions were on the limit,” says Mr Atkinson. “Despite that, two years after a disaster, the wheat looks almost as good as that following our modified AB15. “And we’ve also had an 8t crop of spring oats in the meantime and have ended up with very little blackgrass. “Conventional wisdom says we should have pressed the reset button and ploughed, but this alternative appears to work well.”

Niall Atkinson (left) and Mark Hemmant in the trial plots.

for two calendar years, it would have to be followed with a spring crop rather than winter wheat. A further method tested under extreme conditions could enable growers to return to winter wheat without sacrificing one or two years of cash cropping. This trial follows a third winter wheat crop that failed in summer 2019 after being over-

whelmed by blackgrass, despite a £150/ha herbicide spend. Half the plot was earmarked for ploughing and half for a cover crop/spring crop sequence. However, heavy autumn rains put paid to ploughing plans, thoughts of a cash crop were abandoned and a cover crop was established the following summer. In the other half, the cover crop was drilled

Regenerative principles A further study at Lamport is assessing the prospects of reducing reliance on conventional agrochemicals. A plot of spring wheat was sown in late March, along with sweet allyssum to encourage beneficials and berseem clover to condition soil and fix nitrogen. “We’ve basically taken away conventional chemical inputs,” says Mr Hemmant. “This approach seems to have worked well. It’s a really interesting concept. If we can adopt areas of regenerative farming within a conventional system to make it more sustainable, that has to be good.”

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Crop establishment

5

tips to get combinable crops off to a good start Dr Paul Fogg of Frontier Agriculture reveals his five tips for successful crop establishment this autumn

1 Seedbeds, seed rate

and seed treatments Soil type and cultivations have a strong effect on establishment. On nice light, sandy, loamy soil, you can achieve 90% establishment. But on heavier clays, it will fall away, be prepared to increase seed rates based on local conditions. As well as soil type, consider the weather, drilling date, sowing depth and disease risk – and whether you are using a seed treatment or cleaned-only seed. All those factors might seem basic but they still have a key role to play. Winter wheat crops should be established from mid-September. Tailor seed rate to drilling date. Drilling before 10 September, you should look at 175-250 seeds/m². That should increase to 350-400 seeds towards mid-October and potentially higher still afterwards There is growing interest in cleaned-only seed – but don’t forget the value of a single purpose seed dressing. It has an agronomic benefit and almost forgotten issues – including seedling blights,loose smut and bunt – can rear their head again without one. Added value seed treatments also have a key role to play and in trials have been shown to help promote rooting and shoot growth as well as overall plant establishment. – especially when drilling later into more marginal seedbeds.

Ryegrass has a low innate dormancy so in theory a high percentage of seed should germinate in October and November. The reality is, it doesn’t. It germinates all year. And it is difficult to control in a spring crop so drill as late as you can and adopt a robust residual herbicide strategy built around flufenacet and prosulfocarb. . Brome is also seeing a resurgence, especially where there is a min-till approach. The plough is probably the most effective effective tool, but that’s obviously not going to sit well with all growers taking a conservation agriculture approach. So again, you have to think about how to manage it to best effect. Understand the species. Is it sterile brome, great brome or a soft brome. Because all that will impact your postharvest cultivation strategy.

3 Biostimulants There is a whole raft of technology out there but you need to get the basics right. Our approach is: if you don’t know what’s in it or how it works, don’t use it. You need to know what’s it trying to achieve.

A lot of these products are about genetic triggers – trying to make the plant do something. So if you don’t understand what it is doing, then you might be using it at the completely the wrong time. We’ve also been looking for key modes of action to use throughout the programme – from establishment to stem extension. Phosphite, for example, can give you a strong foundation by increasing root biomass and shoot numbers. One of the best vehicles for delivering phosphite in the early stage of plant life is via the seed as a seed treatmemt. But you can also use it as a foliar applications during autumn and early spring. Remember micronutrition too – not just phosphate and potash. Manganese, copper and zinc are also important. Consider the type of formulation the products you are applying and how effective they are at actually getting to the plant and correcting deficiencies. We are now using products that contain R-100, a dual action biostimulant. It encourages increased cell division and growth – and helps the crop utilise everything you’re applying as opposed to leaving a lot of it sitting on the leaf surface not doing anything. >>

2 Grass weeds Pressure from blackgrass hasn’t gone away, despite more focus on ryegrass and brome in some areas. Employ stale seedbeds wherever possible and moving as little soil as possible at drilling. Ryegrass is becoming a far bigger challenge. In places like Essex and Yorkshire there is significant resistance to flufenacet which is a concern. Spring cropping doesn’t work as well against ryegrass as it does against blackgrass. 26 MIDLAND FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2021

Blackgrass remains a challenge – despite an increased focus on other grass weeds


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Crop establishment >>

4 Slugs Autumn slug numbers and populations are set in April and May. This April was warm and very dry – but May was warm and wet. So the slug pressure is clearly there although only time will tell whether we are looking at a 2012-type year. Oilseed rape can probably tolerate one pest pressure at a time. It can be game over for a rape crop where the cotyledons are hammered by slugs on top of flea beetle so you need to be vigilant. In terms of control, obviously we’re moving away from metaldehyde. It is still legal to use until March 2022 but it can no longer be sold by suppliers or distributors. That said, we’ve had a long time to transition into ferric phosphate. Some people are sceptical about ferric phosphate but it works. It has a different mode of action and there no issues. It comes down to product choice – some labels allow pre-drilling use, subject to trapping and thresholds but most are from the point of drilling. After that, it comes down to ballistics and how far you want to throw the pellets or the number of baiting points. Slugs are indiscriminate feeders and you want them to encounter a pellet before they encounter a plantt. So

the more baiting points the better. Above all though, remember to use pellets according to the principles of integrated crop management. That means cultivation has a key role, as does consolidation – and take care if direct drilling when wet because open slots are like motorways for slugs.

5 Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus BYDV-infected cereals produce lower yields and reduced quality. The disease affects all cereals and grasses. Barley and oats are usually more severely affected than wheat. The earlier infection occurs, the greater the effect. In winter barley, severe infection can reduce yield by 70-80% and in winter wheat by 25-30%. Variety choice can reduce the risk of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV). With varieties such as KWS Amistar and RGT Wolverine now available, offering BYDV tolerance / resistance, we now have another tool in the IMP armoury. It has big benefits especially in challenging autumns when it is difficult to travel to protect crops. We are also finding that more people are “drilling on the green” – adopting a more conservation-based agriculture approach. Ask

Some varieties tolerate BYDV more than others

yourself whether that increases the green bridge risk – and consider the varieties you are growing. You should also consider herbicide performance in that scenario. The value of a residual herbicides is still absolutely fundamental. Most Atlantis type products now give limited performance at best so you really are reliant on the residuals. Active choice comes down to what pressure and how much you need to load on. But you need to think about getting the best out of them – use a decent seedbed, consolidate and try and get them on properly pre-emergence.

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THE JOURNEY TO PROFITABLE, SUSTAINABLE FARMING

CONTINUES.

Take 7 steps to a sustainable future. New farm policy means that environmental responsibility and commitment to sustainable crop production are more important than ever. However, sustainability can mean different things on different farms and with changes to farm subsidies and future legislation leading to a new era of ‘payments by results’, it’s vital that UK farmers have access to the right support and advice to deliver and evidence results. Taking a holistic approach to farm management is therefore key and to help, Frontier’s sustainability team has created a practical model of seven focus areas.

Crop Growth Cycle

Soil Function

Carbon Management

Regenerative Agriculture

Help with product selection, genetic and biological solutions and nutrition programmes. Delve deep into your soils with specialist analyses from our Soil Life service. Soil carbon benchmarking, auditing and farm-scale research. Investigate alternative cropping and integrated pest management strategies. Expert advice from Kings Crops on natural capital management, agri-environment projects, SFIs and ELMs, soil health, stewardship and conservation.

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Each area is backed by the knowledge of our experts, underpinned by research, specialist services and advice that can be tailored to your business. No matter where you are on your journey to a more sustainable future, we can help you implement the crop production strategies that are right for your farm business.

Comprehensive digital tools for every aspect of your sustainability journey. SOYL precision targets and optimises inputs; while MyFarm records, measures and manages farm performance. Support with legislation, farm assurance, stewardship and the compilation of farm policies to evidence your work.

Talk to the people that work for the company that makes a sustainable difference. To learn more about how we can support you, speak to your local Frontier contact or visit www.frontierag.co.uk/sustainable-crop-production


Molasses Blends The Essential Ingredient

TIME TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT MOLASSES BLENDS Molasses blends can play a valuable role in dairy rations this

REASON 3: Reduce diet sorting to improve intakes

winter. Georgina Chapman, Technical Manager with ED&F Man

The addition of molasses blends can improve diet presentation and consistency, encouraging better intakes, reduce sorting and the risk of acidosis, allowing cows to produce to their potential. By stimulating rumen fermentation, molasses blends increase rumen throughput and encourage higher dry matter intakes.

Liquid Products says there are five very good reasons to choose molasses blends.

REASON 1: The natural way to make better use of high fibre silages Molasses blends are high in six carbon sugars which are more highly rumen fermentable and more effective at improving fibre digestion, increasing microbial protein production and stimulating rumen fungi, which is especially beneficial with this year’s high fibre (NDF) and lignin silages. New research carried out by ED&F Man at the University of Reading shows that feeding molasses blends has a beneficial effect on fibre digestion. As the proportion of the molasses blend increases in the diet, NDF digestibility increased significantly meaning cows were making better use of forages by extracting more of the nutrient value.

REASON 2: Make better use of protein With soya and rape prices likely to remain high all winter, improving efficiency of protein use will be crucial for cost effective production. In further ED&F Man trials at The University of Reading, the effect of replacing 40% of the rape and soya in the diet of mid-lactation cows with Regumaize 44, a urea enhanced molasses blend was evaluated. Milk yield and butterfat remain constant while milk protein was increased due to the extra fermentable metabolisable energy in the Regumaize 44. In today’s market, the diet including Regumaize 44 would equate to a cost saving of £5,000 over the winter.

REASON 4: Extend forage stocks New ED&F Man research carried out at The Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre shows that replacing a proportion of grass silage with straw and a palatable high energy and protein molasses based liquid feed allows production to be maintained while preserving silage stocks. The cows on the diet including some molasses and straw milked as well as cows on the traditional diet but with slightly better compositional quality. There was no difference in body condition changes between the two groups. There was a saving of 7.5kg of silage per cow per day. Assuming 200 cows were fed the lower silage diet for 18 weeks, the total silage saved over this time would be a potential 200 tonnes.

REASON 5: Flexibility and ease of feeding Cows crave a consistent diet and with time at a premium on many farms, molasses blends can be quickly, easily, and accurately added to a TMR. Finance schemes are available on storage tanks helping spread the cost of buying a tank. As the quality of forage varies during the winter the amount of molasses blend being feds can be adjusted quickly and if needs be an alternative blend can be used helping you get all the benefits from molasses while fine tuning the diet. The question is not ‘should I feed a molasses blend this winter?’ but ‘I am going to include a molasses blend, so which is the most suitable for me?’.

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Feeding Britain’s Farms


Winter livestock Top tips for feeding this year’s silage • Unusual season poses quality challenge • Test to ensure your forage is palatable • Supplement silage to boost digestibility

D

airy farmers are being encouraged to analyse forage regularly during feed-out this winter – to ensure rations meet performance targets and support rumen health. This year’s silage could present a challenge for the rumen due to variable spring weather playing havoc with usual cutting practice, says Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at feed experts Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “It has been a tale of two halves this year,” says Ms Colahan. “Some were able to get their first cuts harvested very early and others had to wait much later than usual. As a result, we are faced with two likely scenarios. “Farmers will have either early-cut ‘rocket fuel’ silages that are highly digestible and could impact rumen pH, or high neutral detergent fibre (NDF) silages that were cut late and are not as digestible as you’d want them to be.”

Silage quality Where first-cut was later, silages will contain more lignin which cannot be digested by ruminants. As grass leys age the lignin content increases, lowering overall fibre quality and digestibility. “For those who took cuts later than planned, this could be an issue,” says Mrs Colahan. Farmers who cut early and made high quality silage, the problem will be the opposite. “These highly digestible silages will move through the rumen quickly and could inLater cut silage faces particular problems, says Lientjie Colahan.

crease the acidosis risk by challenging the stability of rumen pH.” In either scenario, Ms Colahan says it will be important to analyse forage regularly and balance diets accordingly to maintain cow health and performance. Highly digestible silages could be balanced with a cereal whole-crop that has a high straw content, she says.

Better digestion “This will slow down the passage rate through the rumen and maximise digestion of the rations fibre component.” Farmers with stemmy forage high in NFF should ensure the chop length of the total mixed ration is as short as possible to decrease the particle size of the feed. This helps microbes break down the fibre more easily and will maintain good dry matter intake of the ration. Mrs Colahan says including a rumen specific live yeast will prove beneficial in both situations. It can help good microbes outcompete bad microbes – and therefore establish a more favourable balance within the rumen. Positive impact “When it comes to high NDF silages, specific live yeast has a positive impact on the rumen fungi that work to break open the outer layer of the fibre particles. This allows rumen bacteria to break down the fibre further, making it more digestible. “On the other hand, in a situation where acid load may be increased as a result of highly digestible forages, a live yeast promotes the bacteria that utilise lactic acid as a food source as-well as competing directly with the lactic acid producing bacteria for their food source. “This regulates the rumen pH by reducing the amount of lactic acid present.” Regardless of the type of silage you have to work with, close attention to detail during feed-out will help you get the most out of the available forage and support productivity, says Ms Colahan.

Grass left longer recovered quicker – and produced the best silage

Raise mower to ensure quality silage

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utting grass crops at 9cm rather than 6cm or 3cm, will give the highest quality silage and allow quicker regrowth, according to trials carried out by specialists DLF seeds. Visual assessments two weeks after cutting clearly showed 3cm plots of perennial ryegrass were still yellow and brown. But 6cm plots were returning to green and 9cm plots were lush and growing back well. “Cutting low will undoubtedly produce more silage in the clamp but the feed quality will be compromised,” says David Rhodes technical manager for DLF Seeds. “This is because there will be a lot of stem as well as leaf included. “Scalping grass plants will also mean they will struggle to photosynthesise because there are no green areas left to capture sunlight, so they will eventually die. Even cutting at 6cm will mean it takes longer for the crop to regrow for the next cut.” Farmers using a contractor should highlight the importance of cutting height, added Mr Rhodes. Some contractors might prefer to cut low to increase tonnages cut rather than adjusting mower height to optimise regrowth.

SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 31


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Winter livestock

Supplements can get more from your forage

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ivestock producers looking to make the most of grazed forage can increase intake and digestion by 10% by using a nutrient-rich supplement, suggests research. “Supplying a balanced combination of nutrient-rich ingredients, forage supplement blocks stimulate the rumen to work harder by fuelling and increasing the rumen bug population” says Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenco. In multiple trials, Rumenco’s Rumevite forage supplements show an increase in intake and digestion. Dr Bond says this has been proven to have significant impacts on livestock performance. A study of 156 head of store cattle on five different farms found that livestock supplemented with Rumevite Cattle Booster had a 25kg liveweight gain advantage over 105 days compared to the control group. Performance advantages carried through into the finishing period, with supplemented cattle maintaining the 25kg weight increase and therefore finishing 28 days ahead of the control group. “When valuing liveweight gain at £2.00/kg, the margin over feed cost for supplementing grazing stock with Rumevite Cattle Booster was £137.36/head, compared to £109.00/head for the group without supplementation.” The un-supplemented cattle

required feed for an additional 28 days, costing an additional £36.55/head in extra concentrate and silage costs,” explains Dr Bond.

Finished lambs Similar results have been seen in finishing lambs in a study at Plumpton College in Sussex. Despite having a 300g disadvantage to the control group at the start of the study, supplemented lambs had a daily liveweight gain of 189g, which resulted in a 36.7kg liveweight at 45 days to slaughter. The control group only gained 94.3g/day, finishing in 83 days at 36.3kgs. “Not only did supplemented lambs have greater daily liveweight gains at grass and finish 38 days sooner, but they also achieved greater carcase grades than the control group,” says Dr Bond. For producers looking to im-

prove ewe fertility, trials have found Rumevite Sheep Super, which contains fish oil, can increase the lambing percentage by up to 22% when fed in the eight week period around tupping. “The supplement block formulation helps ewes reach optimal body condition ahead of tupping, supporting ovulation – which can lead to more ewes holding service in the first cycle,” says Dr Bond. Rumevite is a multipurpose product, with high energy and pro-

tein options to meet livestock nutrient requirements and daily requirements of minerals, vitamins and trace elements to boost livestock performance while supporting immunity, health and fertility. Unlike concentrates, forage supplements allow for little and often feeding, which results in less pH variation in the rumen. Because stock can have 24/7 access to feed blocks, it is a great way to reduce bullying at the trough, adds Dr Bond. They are also convenient, significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to feed. Supplementation can be tailored to suit livestock nutrition requirements at any point during the grazing or housing period. To budget for intakes, cattle will consume 300-500g/head/day and growing cattle will consume 200-300g/head/day. Ewes can be expected to take 100-250g/head/ day while lambs will consume 100-150g/head/day.

Rural Security Specialists

Clover planting surge after nitrogen prices soar

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oaring nitrogen prices are encouraging livestock producers to consider alternative sources – including white clover. UK-produced ammonium nitrate is currently nudging £297/ tonne – an annual increase of nearly 50%. It means more farmers are looking to include clover in autumn reseeds because of its built nitrogen-fixing ability. “White clover will fix up to 150kg/ha per annum, depending on soil and climatic conditions, which can unshackle producers from their reliance on artificial nitrogen,” says Barenbrug research manager Mhairi Dawson.

“Clover itself is higher in protein than grass alone, typically providing a crude protein (CP) content of 27%.And every 10% increase in the amount of clover in the sward translates into a 1% crude protein increase in first-cut silage.” Some livestock enterprises are now relying on white clover alone for their grassland nitrogen requirements, says Ms Dawson. Research has shown that the white clover/grass combination produces more dry matter than grass alone. Couple that with improved digestibility and the result is more meat and milk from the same area.

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Winter livestock

Alternative treatments for home-grown feed

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rowers are being urged to look to alternative grain treatments to maximise the quality of homegrown feed this winter. Global stockpiling and trade restrictions are thought to have led to recent shortages of propionic acid – a treatment commonly used by UK growers to protect grain from pathogens and moulds. Although market disruption could pose major challenges for UK farmers who routinely use propionic acid at harvest, alternative urea and enzyme-based grain treatment options are available. PowerGrain is just one example. It can enhance stored grain for up to 12 months and provides growers with greater flexibility at harvest, says Andrew Sincock, commercial director for supplier Agriton. “Urea and enzyme-based treatments help to enhance the quality of grain for an extended period of time,

and importantly help reduce the risk of pathogens and mycotoxins contaminating winter feed stocks,” he explains. PowerGrain should be applied directly to harvested crops with a moisture content of at least 16% within 48 hours either via a mixer wagon or mobile mill. A reaction occurs when urea combines with the grain, boosting protein content and alkalinity, says Mr Sincock.

Chemical reactions Grain then needs to be stored under a plastic sheet for two to three weeks so that the required chemical reactions can occur. After this point, the sheet can be removed, and the grain can be stored safely for 12 months. Mindful of changeable weather this summer, Mr Sincock says PowerGrain can also be incorporated into harvest strategies – so cereal crops can be cut even in challenging conditions, such as in light rain or heavy dew.

“Recent market shortages have put a magnitude of pressures on the arable sector, but UK growers should feel reassured that there are fantastic alternative treatment options available that can deliver significant benefits for both the grower and the grain.”

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Winter livestock

Plan winter feed and bedding strategy sooner not later

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ivestock farmers are being reminded to plan their winter feed and bedding strategy following reports of low straw stocks in some areas. The Forage Aid charity, which distributes fodder and bedding in times of need, says a reduction in baling and the cold wet spring could limit straw sales and push up prices – leading to problems later in the year. Forage Aid founder and chairman Andrew Ward said: “While the results are anecdotal, we do have growing evidence that forage stocks are looking better than expected, however stocks of straw are low and prices are rising.” Livestock farmers had found it challenging to build forage and bedding stocks over the last few years, said Mr Ward. Droughts, wet weather and cold spells had all challenged the ability to grow and conserve forage. Forage Aid has found it increasingly difficult to encourage donations of forage. In some cases, the charity has found itself in a position of having to purchase forage and straw rather than rely on donations.

Livestock farmers who hadn’t yet done so should start planning for winter and secure enough forage to see them through to next spring. Farmers should also start planning straw purchases for the winter ahead. Forage aid trustee and Essex farmer Ed Ford put out a rallying call to his fellow arable farmers about baling straw for livestock farms and encourage more collaboration between the two sectors. “With arable crop prices looking healthy it might be an easier decision not to bale straw, however we would be grateful if all arable farmers considered baling some straw and get it into the system to ensure that our livestock areas have good access to bedding.”

Extreme weather Early engagement by arable and livestock farmers with their local straw merchants would enable all parties to plan for winter with stocks being matched up with buyers early in the season, added Mr Ford. Over the years, Forage Aid has helped many farmers following extreme weather

PUMP • DRENCHER • CLINICAL NUTRITION

Straw stocks are low and prices high in places

events. The most challenging years have been those where drought has been the problem – although the charity has also been called upon during harsh winters. Sourcing surplus forage and bedding for donation in a tough weather year is exceptionally difficult and makes it much harder to help farmers in need, said Mr Ward. Planning for the event becomes critical at times like these, he added.

Have you got a SELEKT Pump-Drencher on your farm? With a SELEKT Pump you can deliver fluids and clinical-nutrition directly to the rumen • Providing life-saving rehydration • Reducing the risk of problems in early lactation Visit Stand H207 at UK Dairy Day on Wed 15th Sept to find out how SELEKT can help you.

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Farm forestry Scots pine seed harvested to meet planting targets • Ambitious tree planting initiatives • Trees from original orchard seed • Target is for 6.5m trees annually

S

eeds from thousands of Scots pines are being used by Forestry England to help meet government tree planting targets. The stands of 13-year-old trees cover 10ha – and have been grown from original orchard seed identified from planting records. Trees are thinned and topped to produce higher numbers of cones and make it easier to collect the cones from ground level. Collected seeds will supplement those from Forestry England’s nine seed orchards throughout England which contain Scots pine, Sitka spruce and Lodgepole pine trees, specially bred for their timber characteristics and strong growth features. This is the first time a conifer stand has been converted in this way for many decades as the practice fell out of use when seed orchards were planted in the 1980s.

Demand for trees Forestry England stores about three years worth of seed at its seed processing facility at Alice Holt in Surrey. This ensures a secure stock of trees is available for planting across the nation’s forests. Annual demand for trees is at 6.5m and Forestry England grows 75% of the trees needed to meet this demand, with remaining trees, particularly broadleaved varieties, sourced externally. As ambitious new tree planting initiatives are announced, including the recent Forestry England Woodland Partnership leasehold opportunity for landowners, the organisation is focusing on ensuring a resilient seed supply for all species for the years ahead. Forestry England seed resource manager Nicola Rivett said: “This is an

important part of our plans to ensure we invest in new, secure seed resources to reduce imports, provide a greater variety of seed for species and replace some of our ageing seed orchards.

Climate change “With each Scots pine cone producing 20 seeds and a sack of orchard-origin cones giving up to 500g of seed, these stands will provide future high-quality trees and timber, well adapted to changing climate conditions for our forests.” As well as converting the Kings Forest stands, Forestry England is identifying other orchard-origin stands of Scots pine, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir. It is also looking for stands of oak,

birch, and other broadleaved species. Identifyingspecies with appropriate origins to manage as seed stands instead of harvesting for timber will help to ensure a home-grown supply of even more varieties for future forests and woodlands to flourish. In 2019/20, a bumper season for seed harvesting, Forestry England collected three thousand sacks of Sitka spruce and Scots pine cones which contained around one thousand kilogrammes of seed – a potential 200m trees.

Trees are being bred for strong growth and timber characteristics

Guidance to help farmers invest in forestry projects

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series of guidance notes provides practical information for farmers and other landowners interested in investing in forestry projects. The notes are designed to help develop a first understanding of economic evaluation of afforestation projects. Farmers are reminded that they do not replace a full assessment and advice by a chartered forest manager. The six guidance notes of the series introduce the basic steps involved in the assessment of such projects to allow some preliminary due diligence when considering an investment in forestry. The decision to invest in an afforestation project with the primary aim of producing timber may involve many personal and environmental factors alongside financial considera-

tions, says the guidance. Adoption of a forestry enterprise within a farming unit represents a change in land use and a long-term investment of land, labour and resources. Farmers and landowners should take this into consideration when reaching a decision. Afforestation projects can take a number of forms, from planting steep areas or wet corners of a farm to integrating timber trees with agricultural production or establishing plantation woodlands. Some afforestation projects such as commercial plantation woodlands have the potential to produce quality timber products alongside diversifying farm incomes and providing other environmental benefits. For full details, visit https://woodknowledge.wales.

SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 39


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Farm forestry

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Woodland Trust to end plastic tree guard use

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he Woodland Trust has pledged to end the use of new plastic tree shelters from its sites by the end of the year – and is encouraging others to follow suit. The charity – which hopes to plant 10 million trees each year to 2025 – has spent the past two years carrying out rigorous trials of plastic free alternatives which will be scaled up dramatically by the end of 2021. Woodland Trust chief executive Darren Moorcroft said: “By committing to go plastic free in terms of the use of tree shelters, we are set to be the trail blazers in this field and catalysing a permanent change to the tree planting world.”

Sustainable approach Without protection from rabbits and deer, young trees didn’t stand much chance, said Mr Moorcroft. Plastic guards had long been the first port of call due to their longevity. But they didn’t biodegrade and were not environmentally friendly. He added: “We all need millions of new trees, want to turn the industry on its head once and for all and we have the chance to

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AUGUR TORQUE Wool guards HEDGE TRIMMERS The research has seen a huge trial of plastic free alternatives at the trust’s Avoncliff site in Wiltshire where it has closely monitored closely the effectiveness of plastic-free tree protection. Alternatives range from innoThe perfect solution for a neat vative products made from cardand accurate cut, every time. board to one made from British wool and is totally biodegradable. It says this option has some “significant sustainability credentials” and would establish a Are you involved in hedgerow management or tree cutting? If so, you Areneed you to involved inshear hedgerow management orfor tree cutting? If so, you see this working! Contact us more information new market for wool. need to see this shear working! Contact us for more information The trust is also working www.ncdequipment.com with academic partners at the Plastic Waste Innovation Hub RABAUD FLAIL AND FIXED TOOTH MULCHERS at University College London. It says it is determined to understand the full life cycle impacts from such products to ensure its approach to tree protection is “ Half the cost, half the time” sustainable. “ Halfsales@ncdequipment.com the cost, half the time” Email

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Farm forestry

Tree Production Innovation Fund launched

A

new £1 million fund to increase and diversify domestic tree production has been unveiled by the Forestry Commission and Defra. The Tree Production Innovation Fund will encourage the development and adoption of new technologies and ways of working that will ensure the quantity, quality and diversity of planting stock available for tree planting in England. It follows the launch of the the England Trees Action Plan which aims to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament. The UK as a whole has an overall target of planting 30,000ha per year. The fund will support nurseries to increase and diversify the domestic supply of young trees to facilitate an increase in tree production while maintaining biosecurity, helping to reach planting targets. Applicants will be invited to apply for up to £200,000 in grant funding to support projects designed to address one or more of the following challenges

identified through stakeholder engagement as barriers to tree production. These include: • Making better use of available seed and vegetative planting material to maximise the quantity, quality and diversity of trees produced • Developing growing systems to enhance their efficiency and resilience to change, whilst delivering improved quality and diversity of product • Using innovative environmentally sustainable weed control solutions to reduce reliance on herbicides Forestry Commission chairman William Worsley said: “I fully believe forestry needs to embrace new technology, and in turn we need to develop technology that can support the future of forestry.” He added: “By enhancing the quantity, quality and diversity of planting stock available now, it will help our trees to be healthy and resilient to the impacts of changing climate and increasing threats from pests and diseases into the future.” The Forestry Commission says it

will welcome applications new entrants to the sector. The application window closes at 11.55pm on 8 September 2021.

Grants will encourage efficiency in tree production

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FARMING AND TREES GO HAND IN HAND Can trees really help you diversify your farm without you having to change the way you farm and your way of life? Yes. A woodland could help you more easily diversify your farm business without the need for you to change your main farming activities. With the recent launch of the new England Woodland Creation Offer, there has never been so much funding available or so much to be gained from planting trees: • Capital grant payments designed to cover 100% of planting costs. • Supplementary payments for public benefits provided by your scheme. • Woodland generated carbon income. • Increased amenity and overall value of your farm. • Sheltering livestock. • Income from the timber and fuel for your home. • Enhance or create recreational and sporting activities. • Wildlife habitat enhancement. • Flood alleviation both on the farm and the locality.

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Farm forestry

Record number of pest and disease enquiries

A

record number of tree pests and diseases have been reported in the last year, according to a TreeAlert system operated by Forest Research. The service received its highest number of enquiries since it was relaunched in 2014. The service is crucial in the early identification of new pests and diseases – and is used to help enable their control and track the spread of emerging problems. Members of the public and conversation groups are encouraged to report pest and diseases to TreeAlert. The increase in enquiries is thought to be partly down to more people visiting the countryside during the pandemic. Tree health enquiries in the 12 months to 31 March concerned a wide range of species and mostly broadleaf trees. The most common tree species was oak, followed by ash and sweet chestnut. Ash dieback was the most common-

ly reported disease in 2020, and it is now present in most parts of the UK. A highly destructive fungal disease, it is predicted to kill 70-90% of the country’s 100m native ash trees over the next 20 years. Oak processionary moth (OPM) enquiries made up almost half of all pest enquiries in 2020. Processionary moth caterpillars are pests of the oak tree and are hazardous to human and animal health. Native to southern Europe and first detected in the UK in 2005, OPM is subject to a government-led programme of survey and control to minimise its spread and impact – although sometimes the caterpillers are confused with other species. Chestnut blight was diagnosed in a number of cases in 2020. This is a serious fungal disease of sweet chestnut trees. Since 2011 the disease has been found on a restricted number of sites in the UK, principally in central

and southern England. The government is taking action to suppress and eradicate the disease including surveillance and destruction of infected trees, and prohibiting the movement of susceptible planting material and wood products. Forest Research said it was investigating ways of combating the problem by using biocontrol methods based on naturally occurring viruses which infect the causal fungus and reduce its ability to cause disease.

Oak trees were among those most affected

Enquiries concerned a wide range of broadleaf species

SEPTEMBER 2021 • MIDLAND FARMER 45


FINAL SAY Clodhopper

Wringing the changes Few growers and livestock producers are likely to benefit from the government’s retirement scheme for farmers, says Clodhopper.

A

t first glance, it sounds like a generous offer. The government wants to pay farmers to retire – so we can leave the industry with dignity while paving the way for new entrants to agriculture. How much would we receive for leaving? A Defra consultation launched earlier this year suggests 2.35 times our annual basic payment up to a maximum £100,000. Other perks were suggested too. The overall package could include a surrender payment from a landlord for a secure tenancy, income from the sale of machinery and any associated pensions – a useful start to any retirement plan. But everything is not as it seems. A tenant farmer in a tied house would be hard-pushed to buy a new home for £100,000. And when the average basic payment is little more than £23,000, most farms will not receive anywhere near the that figure. Add in the cost of any tax bill plus any mortgages and debts accrued over the farming life and the final amount will be diminished further still. And I can’t see many landlords making a surrender payment to take back a secured tenancy.

Many questions So what can tenant farmers do? Can they take the payment, stay in the farmhouse and then sub-let or rent out the land. Unlikely. Owner occupiers have also raised many questions about the retirement scheme. I assume you can just rent out the land to a neighbour or share/contract farm. But

46 MIDLAND FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2021

how does it work if the farm is in the name of a limited company or partnership? What if father and son or daughter farm together in joint names? Can the father take the retirement package and rent the land out to the next generation? Perhaps a change of business name will be required. Perhaps a new company to rent the land. Yet the stated idea of the scheme is to attract new farming entrants. I can see some farmers taking the money, staying put and renting out their farm to existing farmers – their own family, near neighbours or other farming corporations. A 65-year-old farmer renting out their land to his 60-year-old neighbour. To encourage “generational change” and new faces into the farming world, it is clear in my mind that much-needed money should go to new farmers – or at least match the money spent by the government on these retirement packages. Such policies already exist in other European countries. But we have been slow off the mark here in the UK. That is one of the reasons that the average British farmer is al-

most 60-years-old and not any younger. Defra minister George Eustice thinks that younger farmers are better innovators and youth brings more energy. I agree. But without family backing or a lump sum of money, younger farmers will find it tough to break into farming.

Change is coming So the scheme is well intended but flawed. Change in farming is certain over the next few years. But it appears it will change with the same old faces. A case of musical chairs rather than a changing of the guard. The large farms will get bigger – boosted by low interest rates and the inability of smaller farms to adapt or survive. The large debts accrued by some farming companies will continue to rise – but be of little concern to their shareholders. For the rest of us, it is going to be a tough few years ahead. Struggling to get by while the basic payment is phased out and a new system of farm support is phased in. Let’s hope we all can knuckle down and survive the changes.

The scheme is well intended but flawed


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