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Bioscience products have key role in winter wheat agronomy

16 March 2024, UK: There is a wide range of potential in winter wheats this season. Bioscience products from Agrovista’s Innovation Range will play an important part in helping crops make up for lost time, giving growers as much as possible to work with in the months to come. Timing will be key once conditions improve…

Dan Knight


Growers face a very busy couple of months ahead with many winter crops needing urgent attention and a big increase in spring cropping adding to the workload.

We have drilled about two-thirds of the intended winter cropping area and will probably end up with 55-60%. Within that is a massive range of drilling dates from the end of September through to early February, and a big variation in potential.

Farmers face a big shift in the spring workload. They have a lot more spring cropping to get in, fertiliser needs to go on and many winter crops still require herbicide. And manganese deficiency is more prevalent due to the wet.

So there are some quite daunting challenges ahead. Timing will be of the essence, especially if it starts to turn dry. I don’t think we can fully make up for lost time as soils have been saturated for so long.

Root development has been massively compromised. Crops will soon be in stem extension, particularly earlier drilled ones, putting on lush new growth, but with the rainfall we’ve had, that won’t necessarily make for very resilient plants.

We need to encourage rooting as soon as we can travel to help maintain tillers and maximise their potential, to turn these crops around.

But we have to be realistic about yield potential. We have to assess/reassess as we go and cut our cloth accordingly, using those resources we do have to best effect.

The first job is to apply nitrogen and sulphur – there won’t be much of either left in the soil. But we need to maintain the focus on rooting – that’s where Calfite Extra and Luxor fit in.

Calfite Extra works by tricking the plant into thinking it’s phosphate deficient, so there’s a bit of a lag time. This year we need an almost instant effect. By applying Luxor, we are putting phosphate straight into the plant, at a time when it’s arguably never needed more. Luxor will be the main focus on all but the most fertile sites.

I think this year there is a real need for both on all wheats. Given the economic climate, the initial thought is we have to cut cost, but if you miss that first piece of the jigsaw to achieve the rooting and tiller manipulation we need, you’re going to fall at the first hurdle.

Do it right and, if the weather is on our side, we have a better chance of having something to work with. We can then reassess how crop potential is shaping up and what investment is justified.

If it came really dry in April, I would probably consider readjusting fungicide spend in winter wheats if disease pressure is lower into Wholly K. This has worked well in the past.

Potassium is important for water regulation and the movement of nutrients through the plant, so it helps keep the cogs turning at a time when the plant wants to shut down.

Martin Foster

Scotland, eastern central

Most winter wheat in my area went in before the autumn deluge and much got away fairly well. Other, later-drilled fields have remained wet and anaerobic, some have wet patches and areas that have flooded out. There are also plenty of thin patches, but hopefully these will survive.

There are a lot of small plants which will need a boost in the run up to T0, and we need to maintain potential on better-looking crops. Overall, about 25% of the wheat crop will need particular attention but all will need help to encourage rooting.

We now have access to some very good bioscience products from Agrovista’s Innovation Range that can help us turn struggling crops around and also optimise the potential of more promising crops.

There is no doubt in my mind that these products have helped increase yields and continue to do so, providing an excellent return on investment in the process.

Farmers are quietly pleased, and most have accepted them as part of their wheat agronomy. There is too much trials evidence and in-field experience to ignore – we consistently achieve 4-5t/acre crops when using these products.

On more backward crops I will recommend Calfite Extra and Luxor (see box), which will hopefully be applied in the second half of March in the run up to GS30, weather permitting. Early nitrogen is also a priority – quite a few farmers have been able to travel in my area and have applied 60Kg/ha of nitrogen to many of their crops.

The aim is to build a good root ball to support tillering and produce some extra leaf area. Many farmers will hope to turn poorer crops around with an early dose of nitrogen, but some crops will be too small to use it effectively.

A lot of these plants have not been able to respire, there’s not a lot to them underneath and we can’t expect them maintain four of five tillers without help. We also need to be mindful that the weather could turn dry in the spring and prepare accordingly.

Using Calfite Extra and Luxor helps get plants into a physical state to where plants can utilise the main nitrogen dressing efficiently when it is eventually applied.

Given there’s practically no residual nitrogen left in the ground, growers should consider putting on an extra 25-30kg/ha of N.

Better established crops will receive the usual programme of Terra-Sorb Foliar Extra at GS30-32, rather than Calfite Extra/Luxor, plus trace elements as required.

This will be followed by Klorofill at GS39 with the T2 application and 3 ALO T6P at T3. This will be on a case-by-case basis once we see how earlier efforts have materialised.

The aim is to build good enough crops by April that will be ready to grow away and produce big leaves to make the most of the longer day lengths this far north. That can make a huge amount of difference to a crop’s potential.

Spring Barley

Spring barley will receive Terra-Sorb Foliar Extra plus manganese early to boost crops at early tillering.

I will also advise growth regulator at around T1 timing. Anything we can do to maximise the potential of the spring barley crops really helps, and comes into its own if it turns dry in May. This is not uncommon and can slow growth significantly if crops haven’t put much root down.

Klorofill is a key product my spring barley programme and will go on around T2 when crops have maximum leaf cover.

Product profiles

Calfite Extra contains calcium phosphite, which tricks the plant into reacting as if it were deficient in phosphorus, stimulating root and biomass growth. It also contains L-PGA (pidolic acid) to increase nitrogen assimilation within the plant.

Luxor contains foliar phosphorus, humic and fulvic acids to stimulate soil biology to maximise nutrient availability, and L-PGA.

Terra-Sorb Foliar Extra is a blend of 21 readily available amino acids and trace elements, a ‘stress buster’ that helps plants make better use of existing resources.

Klorofill maximises photosynthesis to boost carbohydrate production and plant growth, especially useful during periods of rapid growth.

3 ALO T6P builds yield by maximising carbohydrate utilisation into grain.

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