Open days offer a wealth of advice for arable farmers

THERE was plenty of information on offer for arable farmers at two open days held recently near Darlington.

The event by DKB Crop Protection took place at Low Walworth Farm on June 28 and 29, where the trial plots were looking very colorful as they moved in the breeze – the red/purple varieties standing out against the green and gold more usual colors.

Exhibitors and trade stands offered visiting farmers advice on everything from farm equipment of all types to crop protection products, as well as services and technology.

However, the key interest on the two days was to walk the trial plots and find out the latest information relevant to the local growing conditions.

With harvesting now underway Louis Williams, arable agronomist at DKB and Hutchinsons, said: “Combines are now rolling through the hills and valleys of North Yorkshire, with yields generally falling into the ‘good’ to ‘average’ categories.

“It is worth bearing in mind what a difference moisture levels can make to yield, with many crops coming in at 13.5 per cent.

“Yields are being closely watched this year, not only by farmers whose investment in crops is at an all-time high, but also by the wider world as part of the global food security picture.

DKB Open Day 3

“It has certainly been a tumultuous year, with fine conditions at drilling and very few frosts over winter. We found that discipline in fungicide timings was key this year to keeping crops clean, and happily this was achieved on many farms in the area.

“Ultimately, the uncontrollable phantom of the weather – a month-long drought – has, unfortunately, proved to be the limiting factor for wheat yields.”

He said that discussions with growers throughout this season, as well as at the June Open Days at Walworth and Marton-cum-Grafton, show the importance of advice on nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and the value of variable rate technology on arable farms.

“Whether using bagged nitrogen or organic materials such as manures and digestates, getting the maximum value out of these products has become of paramount importance to maintain profitability,” said Louis.

“Use of precision software such as Omnia Precision allows us to calculate crop requirements down to the sub-field level, to ensure we put the right inputs in the right place.”

While technology and planning are undoubtedly growing in importance to achieve on-farm efficiency, it is also important to evaluate the role of new ‘biological’ products – a term for products that are not composed of inert molecules, but living organisms.

One such product is Utrisha-N, which is applied as a suspension of the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Methylobacterium symbioticum, and colonises plant tissues in order to fix nitrogen directly from the air (approximately 30kg/ha according to our own, and Corteva trials) .

Another is the seed-dressing Tiros, which provides the germinating seed with two bacterial endophytes to access locked-up phosphate within the soil. Trials of Tiros over the last two years have visibly improved establishment and early vigor in winter wheat.

He concluded: “The potential of such developments is to not only reduce our spending on inorganic fertilisers, but also to cut carbon emissions per tonne of grain produced.

“This will help to reach our NFU 2040 targets, and combined with modern varieties – much praise this year for Tardis and Dawsum seems to have been warranted – achieve yields that reflect and reward inputs.”

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