CROPPING CHANGES under the single farm payment system will make a better understanding of establishment issues more important than ever.

“With poorer land coming out of cropping, growers will have to optimise performance on what remains in production and that means making the most of establishment,” says Hants crop consultant Alan Bide, chairman of the HGCA Sow2Succeed initiative.

“There will be less margin for error. You might think there’s nothing new to say on seed numbers, drilling date and establishment, but science has moved on. Growers are missing tricks if they don’t exploit this.”

Seed number will attract particular attention at this winter’s Sow2Succeed seminars, with a strong emphasis on matching rate to prevailing conditions. “Farmers are accepting that they need more margin for insurance when using lower seed rates, because low numbers need optimum conditions at all times,” says Mr Bide.

“Seed numbers are starting to come back up to minimise the risk, which is what was always advised.”

The trend to more mild, wet periods in autumn also demands attention. “Whether it is climate change or whatever, we need appropriate plant numbers to survive that.”

Fine-tuning should also include variety-specific husbandry. “Breeders are highlighting varietal differences in emergence, growth habit and speed of growth relative to first or second wheat rotational positions.”