With around a third of our arable area used for spring cropping these days, our early 2018 thoughts are firmly focussed on caring for them as well as we can, says Vicki Brooks an agronomist at Agrii.
Unsurprisingly with the EFA rule changes, fewer beans are going in this season. So our spring combinable planting plans revolve almost entirely around cereals. Barley – mainly malting – continues to be our main crop alongside a significant area of wheat and some oats as a cereal break.
Most of our spring wheat is safely in the ground, around a half of it going in well in late-November and the rest earlier this month. All the seed was dressed with manganese, complemented with Take-off in many cases to further encourage early root growth.
Our current priority is to top dress all the wheats that went in before the end of closed period for nitrogen application with 40-50 kg/ha of N to help them grow away and tiller. Wherever we weren’t able to provide it in the seedbed, we’re also looking to give them a good top-up of fresh available phosphate, even where soil indices are 2 or more.
The latest AgriiFocus research underlines how valuable this can be, given the nutrient’s generally low soil availability and the crop’s particular early season demand for it. Wherever possible, our applications will be DAP which has the clear edge in availability. And where TSP is used it will be treated with the availability-enhancing P-Reserve coating that has proved so useful in the trial work.
Early nutrition for the best establishment and root development will be the first priority for our spring barleys too. Most of our stubbles received their primary cultivation in decent conditions before Christmas and have weathered down nicely. And wherever we had cover crops they were sprayed-off early to give the glyphosate the time it needs to work, avoiding any interference with drilling or crop establishment.
This means we’re well set-up for barley sowing from the middle of this month. When we actually drill, though, will depend on conditions. Patience is very much our watchword here, as we always find seedbed quality more important than calendar date in crop performance.
Our well-rooted crops dealt noticeably better with last season’s dry weather than any with less well-developed rooting systems. As did those receiving the best-balanced early nutrition. So, wherever possible we will be using one of the specialist copper and zinc seed treatments that performed well in last season’s Agrii trials alongside our standard manganese dressing.
We plan to put around 40 kg/ha N plus decent amounts of P and K into the seedbed and the rest of the nitrogen – based firmly on N-Min testing – at early tillering. In total, we are likely to be using around 120 kg/ha on the Propino that continues to dominate our malting area.
The Explorer we are growing for the first time this season on heavier ground – now the high-N Budweiser contracts have been extended to our area – will also be receiving more nitrogen. As well as having much more leeway on grain nitrogens, our colleagues in Cambridge have found the variety can respond to this well with yields of over 10 t/ha.
Alongside the low temperature PGR, Adjust at 1-2 leaves, all our barleys will also be getting early foliar micro-nutrients. And, if the weather turns mild, we will include an insecticide to guard against the aphid damage that we find can severely knock the crops back at this stage.