Jon Parker sticks with his early nitrogen strategy

Winter, spring, summer or autumn? I’m not really sure which season we are in at the moment, and neither does nature. Bluebells are just emerging in the woods, it was -4C last night, the lawn needs mowing and my Oakley wheat is full of yellow rust. At long last we are at least getting some frosty weather, which will, hopefully, finish off the flowering charlock in the rape.

Soil mineral nitrogen samples have been taken in various fields. The results should be interesting this year as the crops haven’t really stopped growing throughout the winter and, consequently, have they used up more available nitrogen than in previous years?

Our nitrogen programme will begin this month as usual. This will no doubt be contrary to advice printed in these hallowed pages, but you must base it on the knowledge of your own land and what does and doesn’t work. If the crops on this land are allowed to get hungry, they never make up for it. Last year was a prime example with some of our best yields by pushing crops early in the driest spring we have ever known.

I have been thinking back to a year ago when the Foresight Report was published and the biggest thing that struck me at the time was the level of food waste. A year on and the waste is still there, but increasing production is the key theme from all the winter conferences. On this point I have to agree with several comments made recently – why produce more when we are already wasting 30% of what we produce now? Do we know what we need to produce more of or shall we just produce more of everything to cover up the inevitable waste? That surely must be the priority.

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