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Talking Arable with Ian Matts: The benefits of manures has become evident

So far, this year seems to have been largely taken up with meetings.

From agronomy meetings and updates with suppliers through to on-farm agronomy, application and environmental discussions with the whole team. The guys have also been getting up to date with various chainsaw, grinder and health and safety courses while the pressure is off.

 

I was tempted to get some fertiliser on after writing the last article. However, just as I was getting serious about it, the frosts hit so we have been holding off. However, applications are starting, now that the frosts are mostly behind us and the days appear to be warming up. As I write this, it is feeling particularly spring-like, with the sun streaming through the windows.

 

With lower leaching losses expected this year due to the lower winter rainfall, crops do not look to be short of nitrogen just yet, but I would rather get some on while we can travel than hold out waiting and miss the opportunity.

 

The winter wheat is at a range of growth stages, with some of the later drilled wheat quite small and backward in comparison to anything drilled earlier. It is also noticeable just how much nitrogen the wheat has got hold of where sewage sludge or farmyard manure was applied in the autumn. It is both very visible from the ground, but was also very clear from recent satellite images of the fields. These will clearly need identifying and lower levels applying early to these fields this year.


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Manure applications

 

The benefit that applications of manures in the autumn can have on a crop in early spring is something that has been evident over the last few years, particularly in the more challenging seasons but, surprisingly, it is still the case this year following the very mild weather. The difficulty is trying to get hold of enough at the right times. Despite several arrangements with neighbours, we are always still short on targeting as many fields as I would like to each year.

 

Pleasingly, there has been a real desire from the team to increase the agronomy knowledge, so we have held some meetings recently to run through some key areas, from application technology to visual soil assessments, to help identify soil quality. I am also keen to build the understanding of environmental stewardship within the team, especially as the Government looks more towards payment of environmental schemes based on results.

 

It is too easy to fall into the trap of ticking boxes with these options, without necessarily achieving the desired intentions. If there is a better understanding of what the intentions are and the management of them, I am hopeful it will lead to a greater sense of pride in the work – and therefore better results.

 

Going forward, getting the record keeping right for these is going to be key, with some evidence easier to capture than others. For example, providing invoices of seed purchased will not be difficult but, currently, providing photographs of specific plots at specific times of the year may be a bit more challenging. There seem to be good opportunities to utilise technology for this purpose, to allow photographs of a field to be taken and stored after any operation, so they can be easily recalled whenever needed. I guess this is another to add to the list of ’nice to haves’.

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