Norfolk wheat grower turns digital for nitrogen advantages

David Hurn is utilizing digital mapping on his farm in north-west Norfolk to squeeze out the best use of nitrogen fertiliser and seed to offer him common feed winter wheat yields of 11t/ha with modest ranges of nitrogen.

He’s not reducing again on nitrogen or on seed, however utilizing these costly inputs extra effectively to learn his monetary backside line and in addition the setting, utilizing solely 190kg/ha of nitrogen on second and third wheats on his medium to heavy silty soils.

His yield variations are getting smaller inside fields on his medium-sized arable farm, as he matches enter ranges precisely to soil fertility, with seed charges inside some fields exhibiting a 50% distinction in essentially the most excessive instances.

“We have been eager to know the farm higher on a area degree, then on a hectare degree, to know the place we are able to push crops tougher,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

See additionally: Norfolk farmer goes digital to get spray timing spot on

Digital instruments

mobile phone


Mr Hurn moved to precision farming in 2014 as he began utilizing variable charges of phosphate and potash, and adopting RTK autosteer on tractors.

He then began taking a look at digital instruments to assist him develop higher crops of winter wheat, spring barley, spring beans and sugar beet.

He selected the Xarvio area supervisor system from BASF in spring 2020 as he noticed it as simple to arrange and effectively suited to the 166ha of arable land he farms at Eastgate Farm, as E & M Hurn, in Terrington St Clement.

After the very moist autumn of 2019, there was little or no winter wheat drilled and what was sown was poorly established.

Nevertheless, that proved a wonderful take a look at to make use of the system’s biomass maps on one area to assist even out the crop all through the season and produce a 9.5t/ha crop of the wheat from the biscuit-making selection Barrel with 240-250kg/ha of nitrogen.

For the subsequent season, variable charges of nitrogen and seed have been used throughout 50% of the farm, and 120ha of Firefly and Barrel, yielding an identical 9.5t/ha.

This was thought-about a very good yield after the very boring climate within the grain-filling month of June leading to disappointing particular weights, and Firefly – as a Cougar-related selection – exhibiting weak spot to septoria.

“The yield variations in area have been getting smaller, so it was not 8t/ha right here after which 12t/ha in different areas,” he says.

Give attention to feed wheats

For the harvest 2022, there was a swap to feed wheats, whereas nitrogen ranges have been pulled again after the sharp rises in fertiliser costs in the midst of 2021.

The 126ha of wheat grown of sorts Gleam, Dawson and Skyscraper noticed 210kg/ha of nitrogen used for second and third wheats, and 190kg/ha for first wheat after sugar beet.

Mr Hurn examined the crops on the flag-leaf stage with an N-sensor system and located the optimum nitrogen degree needs to be 210-220kg/ha on a 3rd wheat.

He knew his nitrogen regime was heading in the right direction and this resulted within the good common wheat yield of 11t/ha.

His liquid urea nitrogen regime makes use of a three-way cut up, with the primary in late February/early March utilizing a flat charge of 60kg/ha.

It’s because the satellite tv for pc imagery typically reveals patchy crops popping out of winter, and isn’t thought-about correct sufficient to base purposes of fertiliser.

Nevertheless, the second utility in mid-late March does use variable charge nitrogen (at an general common charge of 80kg/ha), with extra nitrogen utilized to elements of the crop with low biomass to attempt to encourage tillering, and a decrease charge on excessive biomass areas to assist even the crop out.

The third utility is once more at a variable charge (at a median charge of 70kg/ha) and delivered in mid-April.

However the variable charge dose ratio is reversed as tillering is coming to an finish, and so much less is utilized to the decrease biomass and extra to feed to higher areas of the sector.

“Variable nitrogen is an effective device, however it must be linked to variable seed purposes to get one of the best outcomes,” he says.

Variable seed charges

He makes use of a base seed charge of 180kg/ha for his wheat, however this could fluctuate from 160 to 240kg/ha, with poor areas of the sector receiving extra seed, and the extra fertile areas much less seed to offer a good crop.

Once more, he emphasises he’s not seeking to lower prices, as with nitrogen, however improve the revenue margin a hectare.

The digital system can also be proving helpful in his transfer in direction of making use of for the brand new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) to interchange direct farm subsidies, the place, with recommendation from his impartial agronomy adviser Steve Baldock at Prime Agriculture, he’s making an attempt out cowl crops for the primary time and recording them on his digital platforms.

His cowl crops are being established utilizing a seed hopper on prime of his Sumo Trio cultivator, which is used throughout all cereal land post-harvest with the straw all chopped.

The price of the duvet crop seed is £28/ha to use for the medium tier of the SFI arable soil scheme, paying out £40/ha throughout the entire farm.

All his 66ha of land destined for spring cropping is rising cowl crops to attempt to enhance natural matter ranges, which on his silty soils are inherently low as a result of low clay content material.

“Within the medium to long run, we have to enhance soil well being, and the simplest approach is through the use of cowl crops,” he says.

Mr Hurn can also be utilizing digestate, utilized post-harvest, which is excessive in phosphate, with some sulphur and nitrogen, and that is serving to with early rooting and will result in a discount in nitrogen within the spring of about 30kg/ha.

The digital system additionally helps him make information for his 5.25ha of land beneath a Countryside Stewardship scheme, utilizing AB1-nectar flower mixes, AB9-winter chook meals,  SW1-buffer strips and SW4-watercourse buffer strips.

Three ranges

Luke Pollard and David Hurn

Luke Pollard and David Hurn © BASF

Mr Hurn is utilizing the variable charge prime tier of the Xarvio system, however Luke Pollard, the Xarvio implementation lead, explains there are three ranges of the system accessible to farmers:

  • Primary – free for all options for simply two fields
  • Utility timer – £340/12 months/farm
  • Variable charge (contains utility timer) –- £600/12 months/farm

The appliance timer (included within the prime tier variable charge tier) helps predict a crop’s development stage or the danger of illness, primarily based on such components similar to drilling date, selection, soil sort and climate, to tailor a twig utility at one of the best timing.

Mr Hurn, who provides in knowledge from his personal on-farm climate station, sees the digital knowledge as giving a really correct forecast of when to spray and may very well be helpful in very dry springs when many growers seemed to delay T1 fungicide sprays as a result of a low illness menace.

“I discovered the predictor of development levels to be very correct, and with this good device we might be able to delay purposes to offer extra safety in a while,” he says.