Hutchinsons held an early season brassica open day at Old Leake in Lincolnshire, in conjunction with the Allium & Brassica Centre.
Hosted by F Daubney & Son, trials were set up to look at insecticides, nutrition, and herbicides, in addition to demonstrations highlighting ways to achieve better soil health.
One of the aims of this work is to be able to offer growers practical solutions to address a shrinking crop protection toolbox, said Hutchinsons technical support for vegetables, Peter Waldock.
He also drew attention to the challenges of effective aphid control, since the loss of Cruiser (thiamethoxam).
Mr Waldock said: "One of the problems is an increased crop susceptibility to viruses such as turnip yellows virus (TuYV) and turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) which are vectored by aphids," he said, noting that the trials have been assessing products applied with the precision applicator Phytodrip.
Phytodrip treatments were still working well 37 days after treatment, and most foliar sprays had also successfully reduced aphid numbers, he observed.
"We now need to better understand whether the same level of protection can be achieved when these products are used together with Verimark and Tracer against aphids," he explained.
The trial site is also a site for Brassica Alert with pheromone insect traps and spore trapping for white blister, ringspot and light leaf spot. These along with the weather station enable more accurate pest and disease forecasting and product application.
Nutrition trials explored the effectiveness of biologicals and biostimulants. "We are aiming to support plant health and create an environment for the plant to maximise its own defences," said trials agronomist Carl Sharp of the Allium and Brassica Centre.
All the trialled products gave encouraging results with both module and foliar treatments increasing crop button weight.
Crops treated in the 2018 trials with biostimulant Bridgeway showed an increase in button weight of 17 per cent. The product is based on plant-derived amino acids and is already being successfully used in the field, he noted.
Bacillus-based RhizoVital also performed well, increasing nutrient availability to plants by converting soil nutrients such as phosphate into more easily accessible forms for uptake and resulting in higher yield.
Cultigro (a mixture of bioflavonoids) and Advance 66 also resulted in yield increases.
Growers were also able to view the benefits of last year's work on the potential of cover cropping in a vegetable rotation. In June the site received 200mm of water in just 7 days, causing flooding in some areas. However, the impact on the soils was much less where the cover crops had been, pointed out Hutchinsons agronomist and farmer Rich Daubney.
Two soil pits were placed less than 20m apart on the land which, prior to becoming a Hutchinsons trials site, had been used in intensive cultivation with maize, vegetables and potatoes in the rotation.
As a result, the field has areas of deep compaction below the levels where machinery can reach, so only a deep rooting plant can help alleviate it. Mr Daubney said: "The ground which had been planted with a cover crop last year showed no compaction from the heavy rain, and there were a good number of vertical fissures to allow drainage and encourage rooting.
"This shows the key role organic matter can play in keeping the structure open.
"The other soil pit showed signs of compaction and had virtually no fissures."
Visitors were also shown round the herbicide trials, which showed some different results from 2018. "We have had very different weather from 2018,and weed pressure has been low," said Carl Sharp, pointing out that even the control plots were very clean.
"In addition, we have noticed a difference in crop safety, with none of the herbicides causing any issues or signs of scorch or serious crop canopy reduction."
Looking to the future of good soils management, growers attending the event showed great interest in a game-changing soil mapping service recently launched to UK growers by Hutchinsons.
"TerraMap revolutionises the way in which soil nutrient mapping is currently undertaken in the UK – setting a new standard for accuracy in precision agriculture" said Hutchinsons precision technology manager, Oliver Wood.
"Today's precision farming requirements demand greater accuracy and until now, UK growers have not had access to a high definition soil scanning system."
TerraMap uses gamma-ray detection technology that delivers resolutions of over 800 points/ha, providing high definition mapping of all common nutrient properties, pH, soil texture, organic matter and CEC as well as elevation and plant available water.