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Wheat agronomy and the environment once again share the focus evenly across Velcourt’s area at this year’s event, but there will be many new features to draw the crowds, promises technical director Keith Norman.

Most of these will be within the environment section, building on the most successful topics from last year. Biofuels were – and still are – top of many minds and as a result plots of various biofuel crops, including oilseed rape, high-starch wheat, high-sugar grass, miscanthus, willow and sugar beet have been established to demonstrate what options are available.

Mr Norman thinks there will be a strong future for many of these crops, although the likes of miscanthus and willow may not be commercially viable for all farmers at present. “Wheat and sugar beet will be the main crops, but high-sugar grass is another potential area that’s not quite there yet.”

Several environmental stewardship options will also be demonstrated, many in response to what farmers are being asked to do on farms, says Mr Norman. New for 2007 is a wetland feature, established by bunding, widening and deepening an existing farm ditch. This will not only provide a biodiversity boost – particularly on dry, arable farms – but could also help protect watercourses, he says.

Environmental features

Other environmental features include a demonstration of farmland bird summer and winter food and nest sites in conjunction with the RSPB a biobed, and a wildflower mix.

The wheat agronomy section includes plots showing a range of “industry standard” pre- or post-emergence blackgrass herbicides, comparing the efficacy of different products and combinations of herbicides in a single-spray situation. While a one-hit approach is not practiced on Velcourt-managed farms, Mr Norman says the trial will demonstrate each product’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

Similarly, the preventative and curative properties of new and established chemistry will be under the spotlight within the fungicide demonstration. The area will be divided equally between showing what happens when products are used protectively at T1 or curatively at T2 only. “All the plots are Cordiale, which was sown on 21 September,” notes trials manager Paul Cartwright.

Given the rising cost of artificial fertiliser, a crop nutrition trial will show how a 50:50 compost/ biosolid mix substitutes or complements inorganic fertiliser. Applying nitrogen fertiliser at rates from 0-300kg/ha will then allow dose rate response curves to be plotted. “This is a smaller version of a field-scale trial we’re conducting with WRAP Organics on a farm in Lincolnshire,” notes Mr Norman.

Alongside this, five different green manures – including clovers, buckwheat and vetch – have been planted to examine what benefit they give and the practicalities of establishing a commercial crop within them.

Different types of oilseed rape (eg HOLL, dwarf) are also being grown. Velcourt will be making their own potato chips on the stand to show the different attributes of the oils derived from the range of varieties.

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