Trapping light

By Peter Lundgren, The Farmer

Thank-you to everybody who took part in the fertilizer decision. Nitrogen fertilizer is a contentious issue but there were a lot of good suggestions put forward – not least the suggestion that we use bio-stimulants or foliar feeds to supplement the nitrogen and try to ensure that the crop remains healthy for as long as possible so that the plants can trap more of the sun’s energy during the growing season and convert the sun’s energy into wheat.

In Lincolnshire our theoretical maximum yield is about 20 tons/ha. That theoretical maximum is based on the amount of sunlight available to the crop during an average growing season and, of course, the availability of water when the plant needs it.  Obviously theory and practice are two different things and that’s why the world record wheat yield is about 16 tons/ha and we are trying to achieve 10 tons/ha.

So our job now is to manage the crop so that it can intercept as much light as possible whilst hoping that there will be sufficient (but not too much) water available at the critical times in the plants development.

As I said during the decision my only concern over using reduced nitrogen rates is that we may have a problem achieving the quality required by the trade so to try and anticipate any quality problems I’m exploring the suggestion that we supplement the nitrogen with a foliar feed.  I’m investigating suitable foliar feeds and one possible candidate is the product used by Tim Lamyman who broke the world record for wheat yield last year on his farm in Lincolnshire. It looks horrible – a sort of dirty green goo – but it certainly seems to work for Tim.

After complaining that the winter has been so mild and wondering what that means for the crop and harvest date the weather has turned cold – minus 5 degrees some nights – just when I wanted to get on with spreading the nitrogen and doing some field work. The cold weather stops the plants growing but hopefully the next few days will see warmer weather and I will be able to get on with the growing list of jobs.

Please feel free to read through questions and responses from the Field of Wheat collective members and the Farmer.