Improving resource efficiency, boosting plant health and better soils are among the key agronomy topics being examined at The CropTec Show. Here is just a flavour of what’s in store.
UK farmers may be under-liming their soils with application of ammonium-based nitrogen fertilisers and urea contributing to soil acidity, says professor Keith Goulding, sustainable soils research fellow at Rothamsted Research.
Maintaining a correct soil pH is vital to enhanced crop yields and sustainable soil health. However, much less lime is being applied in the UK than required, and many arable and grassland soils are below the ideal pH, he says.
UK agricultural soils usually have a pH of between 5 and 7.5.
The most important current causes of acidification on agricultural land are the application of ammonium-based nitrogen fertilisers and urea. If soils are not buffered by naturally-occurring chalk or limestone, acidification causes the loss of base cations such as calcium and magnesium.
It can also lead to an increase in aluminium saturation. Prof Goulding adds that the overall result is a decline in crop yields.
Severe acidification can cause non-reversible dissolving of clay minerals and a reduction in cation exchange capacity – the ability of soil particles to ’hang on to’ useful cations.
Ultimately the soil structure begins to decline, says Prof Goulding, who is speaking at The CropTec Show.
Such weathering will not be reversible except over geological timescales and so represents a serious and costly degradation of soil quality, he adds.
Soil acidity can be tackled by applying lime as chalk or limestone, or other acid-neutralising materials.
The amount of lime required to neutralise soil acidity depends on the soil pH and soil type.
This can be easily estimated from lookup tables in the AHDB’s Nutrient Management Guide or models such as ROTHLIME, he says.
ICL is showcasing its H2Flo water conservation agent, said to increase crop yields and/or reduce water use.
Containing a blend of surfactants, H2Flo improves water infiltration into the soil, enhances vertical and lateral moisture distribution, increases water retention and can reduce soil hydrophobicity in water repellent soils - improving overall water use efficiency.
UK trials in potatoes show productivity improvements can boost farm profits by more than £1,000/hectare, according to ICL.
Aiva Fertiliser offers a range of soil and foliar fertilisers which are said to be able to get more than 90% of the applied nutrients into the plant, avoiding harm to the soil and beneficial insects.
These fertilisers, augmented with a range of biostimulants and advice on soil programmes, are said to offer the farmer a route to using fewer inputs as well as improving soils for future generations while maintaining yields and quality.
PGRO is launching the new 2020 Recommended Lists of peas, spring beans and winter beans at The CropTec Show.
In addition, staff will be on hand to inform visitors about the PGRO’s latest research and assist with agronomy queries and advice concerning pulse crops.
The organisation says it welcomes input from growers and agronomists.
Bionature is showcasing its product Xstress, which is formulated with the aim of protecting crops from extreme stresses. Its formulation is said to allow nutrients to be delivered into the plant quickly and effectively.
The product can help during floods, droughts, high and low temperatures by regulating the ratio of positive plant defence chemicals to negative destructive stress compounds, preventing plant damage and yield loss, according to Bionature.
Cranfield University is presenting research on the benefits of cover crops at The CropTec Show, providing evidence from various field trials and indoor crop health and protection (CHAP) facilities.
The research has found that including cover crops in an arable rotation triples the earthworm population and that out of seven cover crop species, buckwheat produced most roots at the compacted plough layer interface.
The results from CT scans also revealed that buckwheat, rye, mustard and radish significantly increase pore space in compacted soil. The research concludes that cover crops have multiple benefits including the potential of cover crop roots to act as a bio-drill.
With long experience of creating integrated pest management (IPM) systems, Fargro says most components in a programme are influenced by environmental factors.
These include, for example, pest life cycles and development and establishment of biocontrols and biopesticides.
Through improved sensor technology to capture environmental data and enhanced data analytics platforms, Fargro says it can optimise an IPM programme to better control pests and diseases for an individual grower.
The company is a leader in the biopesticides market, regularly bringing new and innovative biopesticides to the market.
Engage Agro has been developing silicon product, Sentinel over the last four years aimed at optimising crop potential and naturally reducing susceptibility to infection and predation.
It says it will change the way farmers manage slug and snail predation with the product said to render crops unpalatable for four to six weeks.
Calcium is the second focus for Engage Agro and specifically, its new foliar product, Opti-Cal. The calcium chelate has been developed to deliver calcium to fully developed cells, allowing for maturing crops to be rapidly resupplied with calcium.
For growers looking for soil health and cover cropping advice, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership team stand is a useful place to visit.
Advisers and experts will be on hand to give advice about BASIS, FACTS and soils; and growers can reduce soil erosion and improve soil structure on their land.
CSF work together with farmers in high priority water areas to improve farm resilience and water and air quality.
CSF says a Farmers Telephone Survey revealed 92% of farmers it has worked with are satisfied with its one-to-one advice.