Record attendance at farm trials shows desire to come together to learn and share

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  • Farm trials provide an excellent test-bed for the latest tools and technology in real-world situations, and for the last two seasons there has been so little opportunity to have any shared experiences or learnings, so the chance to come together this year has been welcomed
  • The Hutchinsons Carlisle regional technology centre, held at Midtown Farm, Kirkhampton, by kind permission of the Brown family is a longstanding event in the trials diary for local farmers
  • This year the enthusiasm for the event was stronger than ever and drew over 100 visitors to its open day on 22nd June

Adhering to Covid regulations, small groups visited several stations across the site, each one focusing on different areas of crop production.

Agronomist Helen Brown who was involved with organizing and running the day said: “ We planned and carried out the trials in the hope that when we got to the summer we would be able to show visitors around and share the learnings of the season. Its always really useful to see work done at a regional level as this is then relatable back to other farms in the area. So you can imagine our delight when we were able to run the trials day!”

A key area of focus of the trials work this year has been to evaluate different drilling methods, explains Helen.

The field chosen for the trial was stubble turnips over winter and had Farm Yard Manure  applied before being flat lifted and then the field was split into four strips and established as following: 

•          Mzuri Drill, no placement fertiliser

•          Mzuri Drill + Placement fertiliser

•          Plough and Horsch Combi + placement fertiliser

•          Plough and Horsch Combi without placement fertiliser

“What we found was that there were 63% more plants/m2 in the combination drilled compared to Mzuri drilled trial plots and the visual difference in the crop were really clear 

“There was also significantly more weed pressure (predominantly chickweed) in the mzuri-drilled section].

“With regards to the placement fertiliser this made limited above ground impact upon the Mzuri drilled plots thus far, however in the combination drilled plots there is a noticeable difference in tiller numbers and visual difference in the field and on the NVDI scan,” she adds.

Helen points out that there were benefits form the Mzuri system such as less labour and fuel at drilling and an improvement in soil structure.

“We also looked at seed rates varying from 200-500seeds/m2 . As expected lower plant numbers did produce more tillers, but we found that this compensation was not enough for overall lower plant numbers. 

Helen also referred to work that had started last year, looking at how to increase yields in thin plant populations and managing thick populations, and this showed that using PGR’s at appropriate timings increased yields on the lower plant populations.

“Variety choice is a major decision, but with the issues around fungicides and evolving disease resistance, there’s increasing focus on using genetics to ease crop management. This is an ideal chance to see how varieties perform under local conditions and soil type, and discuss all aspects of variety selection and markets,” says Stewart MacIntyre, Hutchinsons seed manager for the north,

“We have run a tramline through the middle of the trials and turned the boom off on one side, whilst the other side has been treated with a farm standard programme- so a really good opportunity to see the varieties laid bare compared to their performance under standard farm input programmes.” 

“The untreated plots sparked much discussion around the unusually high levels of wheat disease this year, particularly yellow rust which is unusual for Cumbria, and also mildew. Varietal differences were very clear; Extase stood out as one of the cleanest varieties whilst Zyatt had clearly broken down to the ravages of yellow rust.

“There were also significant infections in the untreated barley plots.”

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