Knowing is not enough, you must apply

15 May 2014

Up to the time of writing, May has given us around 35mm of rain and things are growing fast.  Flag leaf is now well out and our T2 spray will be applied early next week, weather permitting.  Product choice will be between Adexar and Aviator Xpro but will probably be decided by what is actually available to buy!  The addition of chlorothalonil will depend upon how stretched my three-week timing window since T1 gets.

Doncaster May blog

Nitrogen top ups are also on my ‘to do’ list. With soil moisture levels obviously good I am planning to apply grain protein through 30-40kg of soil applied nitrogen in the next week also.

On Wednesday Pat Thornton and I attended the AgriFood ATP course I spoke of in my last blog, down at Cranfield University.  The ‘Introduction to Soil Health’ was a great day covering the concepts and management of soil health new and old.  X-ray CT tomography to study soil structure, the use of 3D printers to model plant rooting through differing soil porosity - these certainly ticked the ‘new’ box.  However, the old adage that all the good that is created in a soil can be destroyed in days, remained fundamental to our learning.

The long trip home up the M1 gave us time to think how we could use what we had learnt and pass it on to the farmers involved with the Monitor Farm project, so watch this space for our home made Tullgeren Funnel extractions with the Marr Arable Business Group (Google it!).

Tullgeren

The Tullgeren machine

The real take home-message was the link between soils, their health, our changing weather patterns and their effects on available working days.  Having just spent a long time going through my own labour and machinery costings, knowing how many days you have available to work your land is a basic requirement if you are anticipating making any policy changes to reduce these costs.  I think it would be an interesting economic exercise to do with the group to see if our businesses have machinery fleets structured around these available working days or whether we are pushing machines to their limits to the detriment of soil health and production costs.  So in light of the forthcoming Three Crop Rule, black-grass resistance, shorter working weather windows and extreme weather events, is it time we ‘did the math’ on structuring machinery and labour to differing arable rotations?

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 Our cat, when AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds' Ian Oliver visited last year