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Are You Gaining Crop Momentum? – Agronomist & Arable Farmer – Bob Bulmer

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Bob BulmerCrop momentum involves adopting best practice at every stage of crop growth to maximise light, water and nutrient capture with the aim of producing resilient, profitable crops.

This idea was developed from the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) and the idea is analogous to the domino effect, explains Hutchinsons trials manager Bob Bulmer.

With the busy autumn planting period upon us, what do we need to think about to maximise crop momentum during the foundation period, which runs from emergence until stem extension in March? he asks.

“Analysis of the YEN database confirmed what we already knew; that the foundation period is a very important phase for the wheat crop, as important as the later stages of growth.”

“A good starting point with crop momentum is grain analysis for nutrients which combined with soil analysis and tissue analysis gives an indication of what has gone right and wrong with crop nutrition in the previous year.”

“It’s worth sending in grain samples from the main farm soil types for analysis each year.”

The 2018 grain analysis results from six of Hutchinsons Regional Technology Centres provide some guidance on nutrition problems and they mirror the YEN results in 2018, points out Dr Bulmer.

“The main nutrient problem in 2018 was phosphate followed by magnesium and potassium, which is surprising, as these are macronutrients rather than micronutrients.”

“The main micronutrient problem was zinc rather than manganese or copper. Soil and tissue analysis are better methods for detecting Boron deficiency.”

“Phosphate is an important nutrient for early growth and is available in manufactured fertilisers and organic manures. Secondary, but very important tactics with phosphate are to improve rooting, and to correct any areas with acidity problems by applying lime.”

“It’s important to remember that there is a sweet spot with soil pH between 6.5 to 7 where phosphate availability is maximised. Developing a more extensive root system will help the crop scavenge for phosphate, so it is vital to correct any soil structural problems to facilitate root development,” he says.

“Foliar applied phosphites will also promote root growth and are usually applied at the start of tillering. Gypsum is beneficial on clay soils because it helps to develop soil structure and indirectly improves rooting.”

“Biological treatments are also available based on Bacillus amyloliquefaciens a plant growth promoting Bacteria (PGPB). This bacterium is claimed to promote plant health and aid the release of phosphate from the soil.”