Pushing the boundaries of agronomic trials and tools

Article taken from Sentry Spring 2014

This series of innovative agronomy projects will be trials-based and demonstrated at field level to make the findings as relevant as possible to Agrovista’s farmer clients.

Key areas of focus for the 2013/14 season are blackgrass control, herbicide performance, multiple oilseed rape trials and the use of companion planting.  These projects aim to show how that proven new techniques can be used in conjunction with existing chemistry or can achieve responses to a reduced range of active ingredients resulting from either resistance or legislation.


Agrovista’s technical team believes that they are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved from oilseed rape crops via their development trials work.  The company’s network of seven Growcrop Gold trial sites around the UK are used to study the impact of seed rate, sowing date and row widths from establishment, right through to harvest.  These sites have also been used for extensive assessments of companion crop planting of vetches, mustards and clovers for reducing crop nitrogen needs and improving soil structure.

“We have been looking at practical field-scale solutions to the problems that growers face both now and in the future,” explains Mark Hemmant, Agrovista’s Technical Manager.  “These trial sites have given us data from some of the trickiest conditions ever to face the industry, from droughts to floods and everything in between.”

Over the four years since Growcrop Gold started, the highest yields have always been achieved with lower seed rates on good seedbeds where there is adequate moisture.

“Competition between oilseed rape plants in the same row appears to be more important than between row,” Mark explains.  “Typically the highest yields have been achieved sowing 15-20 seeds/m.  When seed rates are increased, there is a reduction in the % establishment as a direct result of plant competition.”

Added to this he says that previous studies have shown the importance of seedbed consolidation for ensuring good seed soil contact and rapid establishment along with reduced slug damage.  “Where row width is increased the yield response to pre-emergence herbicides was also increased, and where the adjuvant Grounded was applied, improvements in crop safety, weed control and yield were seen.”

Seedbed nitrogen trials have demonstrated that band application improved establishment and increased yield.  “Applications of 50kg/ha nitrogen at early flowering increased yield by an average of 0.25 t/ha,” he notes.

“Companion planting trials have been fascinating too – they have been shown to mop up nitrogen that might otherwise have been lost over the winter.  They have also promoted increased crop biomass and rooting and stimulated yield responses of 0.33-0.5 t/ha with no adverse impact on establishment of the crop.”

Agrovista runs free Growcrop Gold trials visits in February and November.  To find out when these are, go to www.agrovista.co.uk.


Continuing Agrovista’s investment into clever agronomy, Agrovista’s new weather system is “ingenious” according to Nick Rainsley, Head of Marketing.

The Daily Weather Forecast service and its disease forecasting extension – Daily Forecast Xtra – have been developed by the Agrovista Plantsystems team.

Extensions to the services to include integrated weather and soil moisture stations can also be installed for managing field and growing tunnel irrigation.

“The Daily Weather Forecast service gives a ten-day weather overview with a very detailed two-day forecast,” Nick explains.  “In addition, there is a six-day spraying conditions predictor which our agronomists and clients have found to be incredibly accurate.”

The feature-enhanced Daily Forecast Xtra service combines a farm’s local weather forecast, with data from local weather stations situated on the farm.  This information is fed through a computer running complex algorithms to provide accurate pest and disease infection risks for a host of arable, vegetable, fruit and flower crops.

The service covers 44 diseases and five pests on 21 crop species, including early and late potato blight, Botrytis and mildew species in grapes, flowers and field crops, as well as pests like codling moth, peach potato aphid and carrot fly.

As with the weather forecast, the Xtra service despatches an early daily morning email plus the service is available online.

For vegetable, potato and fruit growers, the integrated soil moisture and weather station units really can take growing systems on to a new level the company predicts.  “With any combination of these Plantsystems services, data can be collected and acted upon in real-time, making connection to remote switching units a progressive tool for accurately assessing irrigation needs and monitoring and controlling water use.”

To register for the service, or to find out more go to www.agrovista.co.uk


05 February 2014

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