CropTec to host cutting edge agronomic developments

The CropTec Show’s trade stands, manned by some of the most progressive companies and organisations in the agricultural sector, will host a fascinating array of novel agronomic developments when the event returns to the East of England Showground on 27th and 28th November.

This release highlights some leading research that aims to help growers eke out the best performance from increasingly expensive inputs as well as valuable pointers to help preserve the most valuable of farm resources, soil. Both are sure to stimulate plenty of worthwhile discussion.

Variable rate research

Visitors to Cranfield University’s stand can find out more about a project designed to improve understanding of variable rate application of fungicide in winter wheat and potential financial benefits.

Variable Rate Application (VRA) systems exist but these lack a full understanding of the fundamental relationship between the spray, how it is sprayed, plant physiology and the degree of spatial variation.

The aim of the project, co-funded by AHDB, Douglas Bomford Trust and Frontier Agriculture is to develop the basis for a VRA system. Phase 1 involved a detailed review of the technology, dose adjustment and application. Phase 2 focused on spray deposition and the potential for reducing application rates.

The current focus of the project (Phase 3) is to increase understanding of spatial variation in crops and to assess whether NDVI is a suitable basis for a VRA system. The final phase of the project is to perform a cost benefit analysis for Variable Rate Plant Protection Products.

Efficient fertiliser use

Nitrogen Fertiliser Use Efficiency and the critical role of accurate soil testing in optimising N applications will be the main focus on the CF stand.

In 2019 farm trials, the combined approach has delivered increases in margin over fertiliser costs of £280/ha in some crops, whilst in others 10% higher yields have been seen from 15% less N.

In simple terms, Nitrogen Fertiliser Use Efficiency (NfUE) is a measure of nitrogen fertiliser recovered by the crop. This gives growers a valuable picture of how much nitrogen fertiliser is actually used by the crop and an insight into the impact their fertiliser choices are having on their production efficiency. It can also highlight where potential environmental concerns might lie.

Recent trials showing the value of ammonium nitrate over straight urea in wheat production in terms of NfUE will be highlighted, as will understanding the contribution that soil N makes to crops.

Soil health

CropTec provides the perfect opportunity for visitors to catch up on the latest information about the Big Soil Community on the Fera stand.

The aim is to provide farmers with the right knowledge to help maintain or improve soil health and grow healthier crops while adapting to climate change and other environmental variables.

Participating in Fera’s BSC provides an understanding of how microbial action is impacting carbon sequestration, changes to physio-chemical properties and ultimately its fertility, empowering informed decisions which could increase crop yield, reduce costs and improve environmental health.

Increasingly it is realised that farming practices are not always aligned with the underpinning biological systems, says Fera, adding that it is time to allow modern agricultural to tap into data-driven science to deliver better results all round.

Cranfield is highlighting a BBSRC-funded study, Using roots to bio-engineer soil. The main aim is to develop a framework to select and combine complementary root traits in cover crops that prevent soil resource losses and improve crop growth conditions.

Cover crops provide a way for UK growers to address soil health and provide benefits for the environment, but the practice isn’t widely adopted because robust science that provides evidence of the multiple benefits of cover crops is lacking, say researchers.

Key highlights to date include:

  • Cover crop roots act like ‘bio-drills’, improving soil structure and reducing compaction
  • Earthworm numbers tripled in a recent field trial using cover crops to protect soil and introduce organic matter
  • Crops with large tap roots are not necessarily best at reducing compaction

UKSO will demonstrate updated information that helps growers identify the risk of bare-soil water erosion. This free to view dataset is an example of information provided on the UKSO Map Viewer. The British Geological Survey (BGS) derived this dataset from the soil texture data of the BGS Parent Materials v6 and a calculation of slope from the Ordnance Survey Terrain 50.

The layer can be found under the Agronomy section of the UKSO Layers and the resulting classification is based on the Countryside Stewardship Guidance and highlights part of the land where soil runoff is more likely to occur.

It indicates where to focus efforts to reduce runoff potential on the fields when no other solutions have been put in place. The bare-soil water erosion dataset is available on the UKSO Map Viewer (http://mapapps2.bgs.ac.uk/ukso/home.html).

New products

Top chemists and technical experts will be on hand to share how Life Scientific’s ability to reverse engineer a product from the reference product is bringing more quality off-patent crop protection products to market, increasing product choice to UK growers and agronomists.

The company has several new projects underway looking at a range of seed treatments and adjuvants that it hope sto launch in the near future. This step change in the pace in which off-patent products come to market is increasingly significant in the current highly unpredictable regulatory environment, says Life Scientific.

Sipcam has added Ferrex, a ferric phosphate slug killer, to its UK range of crop protection and fertiliser products. Ferric phosphate is a compound of natural elements and presents minimal risk for water courses, plants and wildlife compared to metaldehyde, which has an uncertain future.

Ferrex is a palatable and dust-free lentil-shaped bait containing 2.5% w/w of anhydrous ferric phosphate (3.1% w/w hydrous ferric phosphate). Application rate is 6 kg/ha, which provides a large number of baiting points at around 60-66 baits/m2. The slim biting edge of the lentil bait has been proven to encourage rapid bait uptake, even by juvenile slugs, ensuring control across the population, says Sipcam.

Seminars and knowledge hubs – topical agronomy under the spotlight

Some of the most important agronomy topics in the arable sector will come under the spotlight in the one of the most comprehensive knowledge exchange events in the UK agricultural calendar.

CropTec’s highly informative seminar programmes involve 16 speakers covering four key areas –crop establishment, crop nutrition, crop protection and crop breeding. Each session will examine how the application of science, research, new technology and knowledge exchange can help the UK crop production industry remain profitable.

In addition, CropTec’s popular Knowledge Hubs, a series of quickfire presentations delivered by leading farmers and industry specialists, will provide key takeaway messages to help make the most of new techniques and technologies.

Topics include the role of biosolutions in crop protection, blackgrass control, optimising OSR establishment, slug behaviour and control, management strategies to boost soil health and the latest spray application technology.