Refining the art of fertiliser use
The last finalist to be visited by the judges in the Nitram
Award 2000 was Warter Priory Farms near Pocklington,
East Yorks. Robin Cradock reports
WARTER Priory, a 4250ha (10,500 acre) unit on the Yorks Wolds, considers nutrient management a key issue, integrating the use of organic manures with bagged fertiliser to optimise crop profits while protecting the environment.
The farm is made up of substantial arable fields intersected by steep valleys of permanent pasture, including some designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other areas in Countryside Stewardship. These latter areas will increase considerably this year if proposals put to MAFF are accepted.
Fine-tuning farm policy is at the heart of the estates management. That includes seed-rates for cereals, which is adjusted on a weekly basis as the season progresses, fertiliser policies and making best and most accurate use of 9000t of farmyard manure from the 750 head suckler herd.
The six course arable rotation is vining peas, winter wheat, spring barley, winter barley, oilseed rape, then back to winter wheat. Last seasons average yields included 10.64t/ha (4.23t/acre) for winter wheat and 3.56t/ha (1.42t/acre) for oilseed rape.
"The policy is to aim for maximum output, while looking seriously at variable application rates," says estate manager Tony Biggin. "We have recently embarked on a five-year soil analysis program using MagnaScan linked to GPS."
Calculations are made for maximum application rates with rotational off-take allowed for. Tissue samples are taken each season and one of the seven combines has a GPS system so yield mapping can be correlated with soil and tissue sampling.
Fertiliser application is done using three 24m Amazone pneumatic spreaders, a 24m Kuhn pneumatic or two Amazone disc spreaders. Hedgeside deflectors are fitted to all spreaders as required, while on cereals the headland overlap has a 6m inner strip with reduced overall application to reduce lodging.
Early drilled winter wheats sown at 125 seeds/sq m produced high tiller counts, so the first application of N was delayed until the first week of April when 90kg/ha was applied, followed by 100kg/ha in early to mid-May.
Going to two applications rather than three has saved 10-20kg/ha without affecting yield, but does require close crop monitoring to ensure timeliness of application. *
Constant refinements to fertiliser policy are a hallmark of the way estate manager Tony Biggin (left) and farm manager Richard Padgell manage crops at Warter Estate, Pocklington,
• 4250ha on Yorks Wolds.
• Careful use of FYM.
• Soil/tissue testing.
• Routine tray calibration.
• GPS variable inputs.
• Enviro safeguards key.