Work smarter, not harder to optimise crop performance
Protecting farm incomes in the era of ‘public goods’ means working smarter rather than harder to optimise crop performance and adhere to the greater scrutiny that farming, along with every other industry, will face.
Two farmers are proving to be pathfinders in this area. With curative fungicide options limited David Fuller of Coldstream Mains, Berwickshire is looking to ensure his 1,700ha of wheat across 14 farms is treated precisely at correct growth stage recommendation. Meanwhile, James Nott (right) of Ovington Hall on the Essex/Suffolk border has tackled point source pollution head-on, with the UK’s first dedicated spray wash-down unit with an integrated biofilter.
For Mr Fuller winter wheat disease control timings are a potential ‘pinch-point’. Spray capacity is really only part of the story – indeed he is about to downsize. With a 12m combine header he is moving from 40 to 36m boom so everything fits 12m tramlines. Block cropping isn’t used as Mr Fuller prefers a ‘mosaic’ approach for management and wildlife benefits.
For him, adhering to growth stage timings starts with crop uniformity. “Our aim is a more even plant stand with the objective to make every operation as efficient as possible. The more you can do to get field growth stage uniformity the easier and more accurate input targeting becomes. That is critical today as we don’t really have curative fungicide options now.”
To do this Mr Fuller is using variable seed rates and nutrition to compensate for variable soils, land elevation and climate – inevitable given an area of his size. He also pays particular attention to variety development and disease ratings to stagger leaf development across his area. “Our planning has to be about spreading the workload so we’re looking to get a sequenced approach to growth stage development. What we don’t want is several fields reaching a key growth stage together and insufficient time to treat them.”
He is happy to grow varieties susceptible to septoria but they will never take a large area, and he always ensures they are in very accessible fields.
Spray technology also helps application best practice. He can use up to four different nozzles in a season, including forward and rear facing nozzles to penetrate canopies or improve pre-em ground cover. Recently he has also added pulse modulation to maintain spray pattern. “We’re trying to work to travel speeds of 12–14kph and a water volume of 100-litres/ha. In the middle of a flat field that is going to give us the pattern consistency to achieve effective coverage of the target.
“But our more challenging field shape and terrain sees pressure changes due to variation in sprayer speed, which alters spray pattern. This can impair coverage of the target, potentially increasing disease risk and compromising resistance management strategies. Being contract farmers we must optimise crop performance throughout, to ensure sufficient income for us and our customers.”
The northern climate means SDHIs are needed at both T1 and T2 timings, but best practice keeps the fungicide bill around £100/ha. Growth stage accuracy means a T1.5 isn’t needed, apart from in extreme situations.
Disease control starts with a T0 followed by SDHIs at T1 and T2. Choices revolve around Aviator (prothioconazole + bixafen), Ascra (prothioconazole + bixafen + fluopyram) and Adexar (epoxiconazole + fluxapyroxad). In which order they are used depends on pressure and variety susceptibility but generally prothioconazole is seen as stronger on septoria, and the stem based complex. “Our approach is all about prevention. By staggering crop development and ensuring accurate penetration of the target area we are optimising our input use and avoiding contingency measures and expense.”
James Nott doesn’t have the same logistical challenge as Mr Fuller and the drier south-east can also ease disease pressure. For him working smarter is reducing his environmental footprint.
He places the same value in variety choice and adhering to growth stage timings, and like Mr Fuller is using a four-spray programme with SDHIs at T1 and T2 to keep septoria and yellow rust at bay. But after learning that, nationally, 40 per cent of farm chemical pollution (point source pollution) was coming from the farmyard he decided he should act.
His response was to install a purpose built fully enclosed sprayer unit encompassing a biofilter system to reduce chemical run off. His was the first unit of its kind anywhere in the UK.
Three filters of soil, compost and straw can handle up to 140 litres of liquid a day and what comes out is 100,000 times cleaner than what can be washed off sprayers.
With farming often getting a poor press he is keen to ensure what he is doing cannot be called into question. “Washing down the sprayer in the field just isn’t practical, so like many we were waiting until we were back in the yard. We are located in the Stour river catchment area and I just felt we could be doing better here. I think it has been clear for some time that our industry will face greater scrutiny when it comes to conservation, environment and habitat.”
He acknowledges the system is not perfect but says it is the standard currently. “It handles most chemicals well, but there are the odd few that it doesn’t like. But overall we are reducing our chemical point source footprint by way over 90 per cent and that is excellent.”
To further reduce farm impact he has also made the switch to air induction nozzles to reduce drift. “All our spraying is done with four sizes of Billericay Bubble jet nozzles. These give us the ideal pattern for the target but also reduce spray drift. There’s also an operational benefit in that they do expand the operational window when conditions are a little outside the ideal.”
The investment in the biofiltered spray unit has operational benefits too. The biggest is the availability of the sprayer at any time. “The unit is very well insulated so the sprayer is ready to go at any time. Pumping out the antifreeze is a chore we do not have to worry about and gaskets and seals are better protected against brittleness caused by prolonged cold spells. It makes something like a late application of Kerb (propyzamide) so much easier, and of course we do not have to worry about ethylene glycol entering watercourses,” he concludes.
Better off with better timing
Innovative technology is beginning to help growers understand and make better use of varietal disease resistance and show the importance of spray timing, Bayer’s Sam Harvey suggests.
For the past three seasons Bayer has been measuring latent septoria levels pre and post T2 using DNA testing. One outcome has been to show the value of variety resistance in helping to control the disease. For example, in 2017 septoria DNA levels in KWS Siskin (6.9 resistance rating for septoria on the AHDB Recommended List) 10 days after GS39 were still below that of KWS Trinity (5.7 on RL) just prior to GS39.
But even varietal resistance might not be enough if timings go awry. To simulate weather-related spray delays Bayer has been treating some plots 10 days after the optimum T2 timing. “Where you have well timed applications then you do not see great differences in DNA levels. But where applications are delayed we recorded increases in DNA levels across the three varieties tested, especially from plots drilled in September,” says Mr Harvey.
Those levels can rise quickly, as seen in 2017. Leaf two tests taken in late May showed low levels of septoria DNA. Two weeks levels were 3–5 times higher.
The reason says Mr Harvey is that septoria does not go away. “It just sits there waiting for the weather to trigger it again. The flag leaf needs protection as soon as it is fully emerged as by the time septoria starts growing inside the leaf you are past the period of peak fungicide effectiveness. Although leaves may look green once mycelia start to spread in the leaf then it is too late,” he adds.
Varietal resilience can buy you an extra 10 days in your spray window but getting the best from that means being smart with other agronomic decisions, including fungicide choice and timing, Mr Harvey says. “Ascra is arguably the most effective septoria fungicide available, but this will never fully eradicate the disease in a curative situation. Even with a product like Ascra it is better as a protectant, and exposing the chemistry to established septoria is the worst case scenario. By adhering to correct spray timings in combination with cultural controls, such as varietal resistance and drilling date, we’ll all be better off,” he concludes.
UK Pesticide Guide 2019 available
Updated for 2019, the UK Pesticide Guide is the essential reference for all pesticide products and adjuvants approved for use in agriculture, amenity, forestry and horticulture, and includes eight completely new active ingredient profiles and many new formulations and products for a wide selection of different crops.
“The printed Guide is a very useful, quick and easy reference to comprehensive UK pesticide information and is ideal to keep in the office or tractor cab,” explains UK Pesticide Guide editor Martin Lainsbury. “But the BCPC’s Online UK Pesticide Guide, enables us to run updates throughout the year and add EAMUs and new approvals as soon as they come on-stream.
Copies of The UK Pesticide Guide 2019 are available now, priced £55.80 (+p&p), or via package offer. Subscribe to the online resource (£70 + VAT per annum) and receive a 50 per cent discount on the hard copy purchase.
Contact BCPC Publications Sales; email: [email protected] or tel: 01252 285223. More information can be found at: www.bcpc.org.
New S-Trac goes into service
Based on the very latest Unimog from Mercedes-Benz, the new S-Trac from South Cave Tractors brings with it a big leap forward in new features and on-board technology for the East Yorkshire based manufacturer. The Launch of the Euro VI Unimog was seen as an opportunity to revise and refresh the S-TRAC and, after two years of design and development to optimise the new Unimog technologies, the first new S-Trac has just entered service with a completely redesigned cab. This includes a larger rear gantry with access from both sides, larger glass area, adjustable steering wheel and auto-steer being offered for the first time along with larger wheels and tyres delivering 1,000mm of ground clearance.
Just about every area of the new vehicle has received attention including increases in horsepower and torque, improvements in fuel economy and major service intervals, now at 1,400 hours, thanks to the range of new Mercedes-Benz engines available to the S-Trac.
“We consider ourselves very lucky in having access to the level of investment and product development that comes with being a Mercedes-Benz Unimog dealer,” explained South Cave Tractors sales and marketing manager Andy Cooper. “These latest Unimog engines and transmissions are so advanced and so thoroughly well developed that they really give us a significant advantage in terms of economy, reliability, servicing and whole of life cost.”
The S-Trac still has key features including a Central Tyre Inflation system, mechanical drive with three position locking differential, portal axles and four-wheel steer, he adds.
Quality sprayer fit for the future
After the successful introduction of the first Condor Endurance sprayer in 2015, Agrifac has launched the new Condor Endurance II.
Following the launch of the first Condor Endurance, the company says it monitored the machine’s performance closely operating over more than 7.5m ha. During this time it worked with customers and, with their feedback, in combination with Agrifac’s vision of what quality spraying in the future should be, it resulted in the Condor Endurance II.
According to Agrifac, the Condor Endurance II has the same strong basic characteristics as its predecessor, including the StabiloPlus system, a tank capacity of 8,000 litres and boom widths of 24–55m. However it also includes many new innovative features, such as being able to drive at up to 60kph on the road.
Applicators are key to the successful use of liquid fertilisers
Liquid fertilisers are more convenient than solids as they allow farmers to use much wider booms more easily, saving them time and minimising wheel damage. Liquids can also be applied accurately, right up to the field border, reducing waste and helping compliance with NVZ guidelines, as well as ensuring consistency of application, and eliminating field margin contamination, says BFS Fertiliser Services.
The accuracy in applying liquid fertilisers comes from the applicator. Dribble Bars from BFS allow fertiliser to be applied with precision, whatever the boom height or width, through 4 equally-spaced openings, with application rates pre-set to one of 11 different flow rates. These rates can be easily altered in the field with a simple adjustment, and without removing the dribble bar, says the company.
If farmers want variable rate application, they can use the BFS Autostreamer and change the flow rate from the sprayer control box inside their cab. Or, if they prefer the flexibility of using a multiple nozzle holder, the BFS 5 Star nozzle gives a greater range of rates than any other fertiliser jet available, says BFS. Dribble bars and Autostreamers ensure that crop contact is reduced, minimising the risk of scorch damage; always provided, of course, that, after periods of high wind, farmers allow crops sufficient recovery time before spraying.
Applicators are available from BFS Fertiliser Services, along with the firm’s liquid fertilisers which can be specifically tailored to meet individual crop nutrition requirements. The BFS liquid range includes NitroSulph, a bespoke concentrated nitrogen product containing sulphur, which is an easy way to apply much needed SO3.
Improving farm logistics
Horsch’s logistics range, which includes the 34m3 Titan chaser bin, has been expanded to include two new lorry-mounted units; the Shuttle 10000F for seed and granular fertiliser, and the Shuttle 8000L for liquids.
“Keeping high-performance drills and sprayers supplied with inputs is essential to maintaining a high daily work rate,” explains Horsch UK general manager, Stephen Burcham. “The Shuttle improves on-farm logistics, allowing operators to do this easily. It is built to the same high standards as all Horsch machinery and includes proven components from our broad product range,” he says.
Both Shuttle models can be mounted on the rear of a 4wd lorry. An adaptive connection system allows the Shuttle to be easily attached to a wide range of lorry variants. Built-in fork guides enable the Shuttle to be manoeuvred safely with a forklift truck.
The Shuttle 10000F features a 10,000-litre hopper and a conveyor belt capable of loading a drill with seed or fertiliser at 2,000kg per minute.
The Shuttle 8000L combines an 8,000-litre stainless steel tank, 800-litre fresh water tank and a 3,000-litre/min pump for fast refilling. The Shuttle 8000L also features the automatic internal Continuous Cleaning System from the Leeb LT trailed sprayer.
New tri-fold booms for 2019
French manufacturer Berthoud has launched a new 3-arm folding boom option for its Axiale range.
The new options offer compact folding within the chassis dimensions, with 6 boom widths available (24, 27, 28, 30, 32 and 33m). The triangulated structure assures rigidity in the boom and offers complete protection to the fluid lines and nozzles while the large boom pivots offer strength and durability for the roughest of conditions.
Axiale booms provide horizontal stability especially when turning and giving excellent performance on sloping ground, says Berthoud. This is due to the low centre of gravity positioning of the central pivot suspension design. Suppression units fitted to the main arm fold rams control the yawing action when turning.
Variable geometry rams are available as an option. This allows the left and right hand boom sections to be raised or lowered below the horizontal independently. Automatic reset to the horizontal position is also available as an option.
The new booms are available on the Tracker mid-range 3,200-litre trailed machine and the Vantage trailed range.