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» Listings for March 2016

  1. david bouch will take on the role of national seed manager at hutchinsonsCrop production specialists Hutchinsons have appointed David Bouch as their national seed manager (designate).  David will work alongside the current national seeds manager Colin Button until Colin retires in 2017 after 18 years in the business.

    David brings additional expertise to an already well established and successful team. A former student of Riseholme Agricultural College, David has worked in the UK farming industry for over 31 years, first as an arable specialist and subsequently as a seed specialist.

    David is looking forward to leading the Hutchinsons seed business, and believes that there are significant opportunities within the seed sector as innovative seed technologies develop.  Investment in genetic improvement through conventional and hybrid techniques is already demonstrating that yield, quality and characteristics such as disease ratings and lodging scores can progress significantly now and in the future.

    Much of this investment originates in the multinational research and development companies that have substantial investment capacity and for whom Hutchinsons is a leading UK partner.

    “Hutchinsons takes a dynamic, forward thinking approach to supporting growers in the production of quality crops in a sustainable and responsible manner. The seed sector is a vital part of this process and one that I very much enjoy being part of,” he says.

  2. Fine-tuning agronomy to extend green leaf retention at the end of the season is one of the most effective ways of boosting wheat yields and breaking the yield plateau affecting UK crops.

    That was one of the main messages from a recent ADAS-led Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) event in Peterborough, where growers, researchers and industry sponsors, including leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons, gathered to examine ways to enhance wheat yields.

    Maximising light, water and nutrient capture during the summer months is a key way of narrowing the existing gulf between average farm yields at around 8t/ha and the “bio-physical potential” of wheat, which can be up to 20t/ha on some sites, says ADAS Boxworth’s Ian Smillie.

    “The bio-physical potential tells you what is theoretically possible, but the focus is what’s attainable.

    “Annual cereal crops by their nature don’t have the canopy structure to capture all sunlight available in a season – a typical 11t/ha crop may only capture 47% of total incident radiation for example.

    “But, establishing slightly larger canopies early in the season and then keeping them green for longer could increase interception to 60%. By far the largest proportion of that increase comes from 10 days extra greening at the end of the season,” he explains.

    Senescence is partly determined by genetics of individual varieties, but is also heavily dependent on water and nitrogen availability, and on protection from disease, so growers should find ways of maximising these throughout the season, but particularly towards the end, he says.

    How this is best achieved on farm is a key focus of future YEN investigations, but there are already many things growers can try this season, says Bob Bulmer from Hutchinsons, who stresses that every solution must be tailored to individual situations.

    “There are a number of elements that need to be combined to ensure canopies are photosynthetically active for longer.

    “Good root systems are important for maximising water and nutrient capture and we are also investigating the physiological benefits of SDHI and strobilurin fungicides on canopies and water use efficiency. The impact of major and minor nutrients on canopy development is another area we are studying.”

    dr bob bulmer hutchinsonsDr Bulmer encourages more growers to join the YEN project, which is now in its fourth year. He is keen to point out that YEN’s focus is on identifying ways to maximise the yield potential of individual sites, rather than simply competing to produce the highest-yielding crop.

    Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley of ADAS adds: “Crop productivity has been somewhat lost in the drive to reduce costs over the past 25 years, but YEN is all about looking at how the science of yield can be used to develop unique best practice for every field.

    “Focussing on the money and costs means you often miss ways to enhance yield.”

    But he acknowledges the cost-effectiveness of different measures needs to be factored into YEN and suggests this could be one project area to develop in future.

    If you are interested in taking part in YEN this year please go to or contact Dr Bob Bulmer by emailing: [email protected].

    The YEN project is led by ADAS and sponsored by Hutchinsons, Adama, AgSpace, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds, Bayer, Limagrain, NIAB-TAG, NRM, NFU, Rothamsted Research, de Sangosse, Syngenta and Yara.

    Agronomic areas to focus on include:

    Encourage more root growth and deeper rooting (ideally down to 2m) to allow access to more water and nutrients, particularly in regions prone to drought stress and early senescence

    Improve soil structure and rooting ability by:

    • Reducing compaction (e.g. controlled traffic farming, minimising travel in wet conditions)
    • Minimise cultivations to build natural structure
    • Add organic matter (composts, manures, cover crops) to build soil biology and improve structure
    • Encourage vertical biopores (such as those created by earthworms or deep-rooting crops) to provide conduits for wheat root penetration
    • Consider a “little and often” approach to fertiliser applications, tailored to crop requirements throughout the season, and:
    • Late nitrogen where nitrogen is limiting end of season growth – but beware of scorch risk
    • Improve the water-holding capacity of drought-prone soils – e.g. addition of organic matter or cover crops
    • Maximise the physiological effects of existing fungicide chemistry to improve greening – e.g. SDHIs / strobilurins/ plant growth regulators – use appropriate dose and timing for greening or canopy manipulation, but do not compromise disease control
    • Tailor variety choice to specific field conditions rather than a block-cropping type approach. Later-maturing varieties could help prolong green leaf retention.
  3. A recent conference hosted by agronomy firm Agrivice, at Ilketshall St Andrew near Beccles in Suffolk , highlighted the need for growers to focus on the small steps that will have a positive impact on overall crop production this season.

    For the 78 farmers in attendance, the take home messages from Agrivice agronomists and industry representatives were clear; yield is still key in driving UK farm profitability.

    With a focus on farm economics, Graham Redman of Andersons , urged growers to interrogate their fixed costs and identify cost savings outside of nutrition and pesticide inputs, which contribute more to yield than machinery, grain storage and rents.

    Preserving organic matter in soils and using cultivation methods to achieve this was the lead topic from independent consultant Bill Basford. Mr Basford encouraged growers to minimise their cultivation techniques as an important measure in preserving soil structure and spend. He re-iterated the importance of loading and tyre pressure to reduce compaction and subsequent soil damage.

    Cover crops have been very much in the headlines of late and Ron Stobart of NIAB believes that whilst the benefits may be small they are certainly not insignificant, and represent another of the small steps to take. He urged growers to ensure that the correct mix of the cover crop must suit what it has been planted to do or else it would not reap the desired benefits.

    Dr Bob Bulmer of Hutchinsons spoke about the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), a collaboration of industry partners that tackles the yield plateau in wheat. Dr Bulmer said that although the high yields seen from some growers have been talked about a lot, he stressed that the real importance of the project was for growers to look at how they can improve the yields on their own individual farms, and to tackle some of the factors that were limiting their yield potential.

    An important part of the conference was the presentation from Agrivice agronomists on recent trials results and what lessons could be taken from these for the coming season. Dan Robinson stressed the importance of well balanced and well timed fungicide programmes –particularly with the high levels of disease found in forward crops at present.

    “Our trials are important as they bring local results to our clients – our current focus is on fungicide activity on both first and second wheats, comprehensive programmes for black-grass control and looking at the interaction between varieties and verticillium wilt in the oilseed rape crop, “ he said.

    He pointed out that the stacking of active ingredients in tackling difficult blackgrass situations was still very important. “In less severe situations, we have seen excellent results from a mix of flufenacet + pendamethalin+ DFF. We have also found that that the application of Atlantis in the autumn had a greater performance in reducing blackgrass heads per square metre than when applied in the spring.”

    Tom Rouse introduced a new project to investigate cereal root health and is looking at how a new SDHI seed treatment will potentially contribute to autumn and spring health, vigour and disease control over and above currently commercially available treatments. Mr Rouse hopes to be in a position to demonstrate these benefits later in the season.

    agrivice trials this season will look at fungicide activity in wheat progra
    Agrivice is an independent agricultural consultancy business based around a team of highly motivated and enthusiastic independent agronomists covering both Suffolk and Norfolk.

    Agrivice conduct their own in-house trials locally and will be hosting their various summer trials days on the following dates:

    •    6th June 2016 Black grass demonstration
    •    13th June 2016 OSR demonstration
    •    27th June Wheat fungicides and variety demonstration
    •    Further to this there will also be trial work involved with spring barley and the YEN project.

  4. The recent very wet conditions means that treading lightly on all soils this spring will be of vital importance.
    While many tractors, trailers, harvesters and implements now have flotation tyres fitted, it is worth spending a little time to ensure you are getting the best from your equipment and minimising soil compaction, is the advice from Neil Watson, Hutchinsons southern region technical manager.
    “Root development in spring crops is more crucial than winter cropping, not least as a consequence of a shorter growing season for roots to fully exploit the soil’s profile. Compaction creates a physical barrier to normal root development, restricting water infiltration, water holding capacity and air exchange of the soil, ultimately impacting on yield.”

    ensure you are getting the best from your equipment and minimising soil com

    He underlines the importance of the correct tyre choice, ballasting and inflation pressure in order to minimise compaction, whilst maximising performance.  “A figure of 70% of land trafficked might seem high, but looking at it more closely even if we direct drilled land using a 3m drill, two standard rear tyres at 750mm will represent 50% of land trafficked - remember 2 rear tyres x 750mm = 1.5m of a 3m drill - and that does not account for any further operations. “

    “We also need to be conscious that the first pass of any tractor wheel is potentially the most damaging -subsequent passes along the same wheeling will have an incremental effect. “

    Top soil compaction is related to ground contact pressure only , compaction of the upper part of the subsoil is created by contact pressure and axle load, whereas lower subsoil compaction is created by axle weight alone; which is the most difficult and costly compaction to remove.”

    How to avoid and minimise the impacts of compaction?

    •    Firstly reduce the number of passes required to produce a seedbed; it is in producing the seedbed that the most random trafficking is likely to occur, at a time of year when the soil is at its most vulnerable.
    •    Run at the lowest inflation pressure possible, consistent with the tyre’s specifications
    •    Be conscious of machine weight and its effect on compaction. Ballast for performance, optimising weight distribution between the front and rear axles. Removing excess ballasting if it is not needed (e.g. front/axle weights).

    Inflation pressure
    Inflation pressure should be calculated on the tyre dimension, axle load weight and speed. “You can refer to the tyre manufacturers’ charts consistent for the individual tyre, or download one of the available smartphone apps to help do the job for you. “

    “With regards to inflation pressure, it is the volume of air within the tyre that supports weight. As the weight increases, the volume of air within the tyre needs to increase accordingly.”

    the recent very wet conditions means that treading lightly on all soils thi

     “This can be achieved by increasing the inflation pressures within the existing tyres, thereby reducing the tyres’ contact footprint and increasing the potential for soil compaction. Alternatively, it’s possible to increase a tyre’s capacity to take a higher volume of air, by changing to wider tyres or tyres with taller side walls, as this maintains a lower tyre pressure whilst increasing the load bearing capabilities of the tyre.”

    Ballasting for performance
    The pulling power that a tyre can exert is proportional to the weight it carries. The higher the tyre load, the greater the traction it can exert. However, this needs to be balanced by the compaction it is likely to cause, continues Mr Watson.

    “There are several steps that can be taken to improve optimum performance which include determining the tractors actual weight and distribution -manufacturers’ handbooks are a useful starting point – as well as optimum ballasting and distribution of weight per axle.”

    He underlines the importance of considering the need for additional front and rear axle weights, and an understanding of how to compensate for the effect of weight transfer by adding or removing weights.

    “As a rough and ready rule, the guide below gives some indication of the amount of ballasting required, depending on the work the tractor is likely to do. Using this approach, a 200hp tractor would require to be approximately 9 tonnes for medium work (200hp x 45hp/kg= 9000kg).”

    Ballasting requirements

    Type of cultivation     Optimum weight required (kg/hp)
    Heavy work      Primary cultivation work 55
    Medium work   Light/ secondary cultivations   45
    Light work    Transport work, PTO work 35



    However it is not just about overall ballasting, Mr Watson is keen to highlight how weight is distributed between the forward and rear axles. “For a normal four-wheeled drive tractor where the front wheels are smaller than the rear, this would equate to a 40:60 split (front to rear). It is then a matter of determining the tractor’s overall weight between front and rear axle and adding or removing weights to compensate.”

    “Adding weights in front of the fulcrum point, not only has an added effect on the front axle weight beyond the actual weights added, but also has the effect of lifting weight from the rear.”