BEING ABLE to achieve milling and malting premiums more reliably is the key result for south Glos grower, Peter Day, after using Kemira”s GrowHow advice package.

“It has definitely helped us be more consistent in achieving grain quality,” he says. That is important for his 50:50 continuous cereal rotation of Group 2 milling wheats – this season Soissons and Einstein – and spring malting barley on his 360ha (900 acres) in Horton, near Chipping Sodbury.

“Making malting quality for the spring barley is not normally a problem, and since using Kemira”s advice programme wheat proteins average around 12%, good enough for a Group 2 premium.”

Field recommendations

Mr Day uses the EnCompass software part of the GrowHow package, to generate individual field fertiliser recommendations. “Previously, like many farmers, my fertiliser policy was a continuation from one year to the next, without too much change. It was fairly crude,” he admits.

Now he uses soil mineral nitrogen analyses to determine more accurately nitrogen levels pre-application in the spring, which is particularly relevant on his Cotswold brash soil, where leaching can be an issue. “I don”t do every field – normally four tests are sufficient.”

That includes one field, tested every year, which can be used as a reference. “The results are incorporated into the programme”s calculations.”

Other information taken into account by the programme includes Mr Day”s yield expectation – about 7.5t/ha for wheat, market target, previous cropping, whether straw has been removed or incorporated, soil type and indices.

It also has to take into account where Mr Day has used sludge, spread on alternative halves of the farm every year. “Using the sludge saves having to apply P&K separately and helps put organic matter back into the soil.”

To help spread workload the sludge had been applied to the spring barley, but that has caused problems, he says. “We have been getting very close to the top end of the malting barley spec, which was worrying, so I have switched back to applying it to the wheat.”

But Mr Day does not blame the fertiliser programme”s recommendations for the higher nitrogens in his spring barley. “It takes account of the nutrients in the sludge, which are analysed, and they are deducted from the requirements.”

Instead, he says, it is probably the sludge not being quite so consistent in supplying the nutrients suggested by the analysis. “It isn”t quite as controllable as solid. But applying to wheat doesn”t create the same issue.”

Tailoring individual fields” require<00AD>ments is where the programme comes into its own, he says. “It is much more accurate and saves me a good deal of time, and gives me more confidence of meeting my quality requirements.”

The standard GrowHow advice package, launched at Cereals 2004, also provides a detailed record of all his fertiliser recommendations, invaluable for both farm assurance audits and NVZ compliance. “Being in an NVZ does not cause me any great problems because I don”t get that near the limits. But having the records gives me peace of mind.”

GrowHow Advice is available on two levels – standard and premium, confirms Kemira”s Clive Deeley. “The standard package costs 2.50/ha for NVZ compliance support, a crop nutrient audit for farm assurance and a nutrient management plan produced using EnCompass.”

The premium package adds soil, tissue and mineral N analyses, together with more interpretation of results and farm visits around application timings for 5/ha.