Aiva Fertiliser Autumn ’23 round up

Written by Nick Thorp, Crop Nutrition Consultant at Aiva Fertiliser.

At the point of writing, it’s coming up to the end of November and what an autumn we’ve had. Around the country, we’ve heard this year being compared to 2012 which, although without the massive summer flooding, isn’t far off for many rainfall totals.

At the end of the summer, it was clear that the tricky conditions had been detrimental to finishing off crops and getting a good harvest in. Outside of the pub, most farmers were reporting lower than average yields and no, it didn’t matter if you were conventional, Regen or whatever label you prefer. DEFRA’s autumn estimates for 2023 just confirmed what we already knew. Wheat is down 10% on 2022, OSR is down 15%, Oats at 18% down & Spring Barley lower by 13%. Winter Barley was the only one of the big 5 arable crops that came out ok and that was just about even in comparison to 2022.

In the world of agriculture, we all did what we do every time, we told ourselves that it was a poor year and the next will be better. Casino’s love the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ and it wouldn’t be far out to say that UK growers are perhaps some of the most hardline gamblers in the country. The only problem is we seem to be betting against pretty much everyone else rather than just the house. Commodity markets, supermarkets and our own Government to name but a few.

So, with that in mind, we got down to getting the 2024 season off to a good start. We’ve become too used to extended autumns recently and there was a general feel that, with a good drilling season, warm soils, and moisture, we could get crops off to a reasonable start. OSR went in well mostly but then has been roundly decimated by slugs. There have been many who, initially believing CSFB to be the cause have spent a lot on insecticides only to realise, too late, that it was an army of slugs destroying their crops. I’m amazed we haven’t run out of pellets given the amount that has been used subsequently in almost all crops.

Then we had a few unexpected days of heat and sun, where pretty much everyone tried to complete the drilling of winter cereals thinking that this was the opportunity. It could have been if Storm Babet hadn’t brought some significant rain totals across the country. This was worse than a normal autumn storm because it got stalled over mainly eastern countries by another pressure front over Scandinavia. This created the conditions for some major rainfall totals in a short period. In north Herefordshire, we had 65mm, a few miles north into Shropshire above 90mm and across the border into Wales some areas received double that. In the east, some of the rainfall totals were astronomical. All in 48 hours and onto ground already pretty much saturated and unable to infiltrate it to slow it down.

What this has meant in reality is that a lot of winter crops that have either already been written off or will need some serious patching up even on what would normally be kinder, loamy soils. Spring seed prices are zooming up and very little has been done in the field since drilling. Herbicides and nutrition applications have been an issue for most and have actually sometimes ended up doing more harm than good. So unless you’re very lucky, have a promising crop on dry ground that can travel, and you fancy spending a bit more money that you didn’t make this year, it’s time to pack the sprayer away and shut the gate for the winter.

Whilst perhaps not as bad as 2012, 2023 isn’t one that’s going to be remembered fondly but I’m sure we’ll all be back to the gambling soon.

My first month with AIVA

Written by Olivia Bye, Crop Nutrition Consultant at Aiva Fertiliser.

What a month it’s been to start. With my raincoat and waterproof trousers in hand, I’ve met quite a few of you now and began preparations to meet the rest.

A little background about myself. I grew up on a mixed dairy farm in Wiltshire, with a small acreage of arable. We’ve been keen growers of lucerne now for several years and have definitely reaped its benefits with the number of silage cuts and improved soil health and fertility that we’ve experienced. A particular out-of-hours interest of mine is herbal leys and its benefits for animal health, which is still much debated.

Multiple generations of my family have farmed the area now, with each generation becoming more regenerative than the last. Recent projects that we’ve become involved with are the creation of a future wetland, the planting of new woodland areas and increasing our acreage into soil-beneficial crops. All while maintaining the same level of arable crops. However, I left the farm for pastures new and headed to Plymouth University to do my studies, with a focus on agriculture. It’s becoming clearer to my family, and I’m sure nationwide, that sacrificing yields to farm regeneratively is a thing of the past.

Having achieved my MSc I went straight into work with AIVA. My attraction to the company stemmed from their focus on out-of-the-box approaches to agricultural nutrition, as well as their focus on building relationships directly with farmers. There’s also the complex science backing AIVA, making it possible to produce such cutting-edge products – which I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of.

I look forward to meeting more farmers over the coming months. In the meantime, if you find yourself in the South/Southwest and want a chat about anything AIVA or farming-related, my phone is always on and my wellies not far away.

Unlocking Phosphate

Written by George Hepburn, Crop Nutrition Consultant at Aiva Fertiliser.

With the amount of rain we have had and the poor crop conditions this year, the availability of phosphate is going to be critical to maintaining yield potential. In this article, we will explore the chemistry behind it and how important biology is to release it.

Not only is phosphate vital for the roots and shoots early on, but it’s also needed throughout the growing season. It acts as the engine of the plant, creating energy for many critical processes.

According to the latest science, when Phosphorous is applied as phosphate, the majority of the nutrient is ‘locked up’ by the anions in the soil. This makes the application of P without a carbon source highly uneconomic, and as the index builds in the soil, the availability to the plant diminishes.

Most soils in the UK have significant reserves of phosphate, somewhere around 3-5000 kg/ha (3-5 tonnes) in the top 6″ and more below that if you have the depth of soil.

amount of phosphorus fixation in the soil

Phosphate issues have been seen in a soil index of 3, but no issues in the crop or tissue tests on an index of 0. There are even soils with a P index of 6 where foliar P must be applied to get some into the plant. It’s crucial to keep an eye on pH to ensure phosphate availability, as evidence shows that it’s significantly affected by pH.

At Aiva, we have the advantage of using a foliar P where the soil pH has no effect at all. The plant is fed directly, bypassing the soil entirely.

phosphorus soil availability

The diagram above shows how Phosphate is stored in the soil. It’s held in three pools. Soil reserves (approx. 3-5000 kg/ha), potentially available (500 kg/ha) and plant available (50kg/ha).

When you apply P fertiliser, it’s not in a form that the plant can take up. Within hours, or sometimes even minutes, it’s complexed with calcium, iron or aluminium and becomes part of your soil reserves. So rather than increasing your plant available P, you now have a bit extra in your bank, but you cannot access it. That’s why being able to use a liquid P that has a positive charge as opposed to a triple negative, is much more beneficial and efficient. It means that this P will not lock onto the soil and remains very available to the plant.

Unlocking your phosphate reserves is possible through soil biology. These microbes solubilise the phosphate and release it to their symbiotic partner. Instead of applying more fertiliser, we need to allow these microbes to thrive by giving them the right conditions. These microbes are aerobic, so having the correct balance in the soil of minerals, air, water and OM (carbon) is paramount. Tight or compacted soils will not release P in the same way, hence the need for fertiliser to bridge this gap.

The microbes need to be fed once they are in the right conditions. Many fertilisers turn these beneficial bugs off. Using a carbon source like humic or fulvic acid, fermented molasses, molasses, seaweed, compost, or FYM can help to stimulate the soil biology and release phosphate that was once locked up in the soil.

Adding microbes can also help release ‘locked up’ phosphorus and make it plant-available. The AIVA product BIOPLUS T has specific phosphate-solubilising bacteria that work to release Phosphorous from the soil. However, like any biological product, soil conditions, temperature, and moisture need to be right to get the most from the product.

how does it work

If your soils are truly low in phosphate, then an organic input is recommended. FYM, compost, digestate, or sludge all comes with added extras in the form of other nutrients and will stimulate your soil and improve fertility. Unlike traditional ‘fertilisers’ like TSP and 20-10-10, it’s crucial to consider the unit cost of P when deciding. So, get the calculator out and go from there.

 

Wellies and webinars autumn 2023

Written by Ed Cooper, Crop Nutrition Consultant at Aiva Fertiliser.

AIVA TIME 2 TALKS 2024

With the Winter calendar of events and webinars filling up, now is the time to book yourself a place for AIVA Time 2 Talks in your area. Independent Agronomist Tim Ashley will be discussing the Soil Food Web and putting soils and compost under the microscope. Please click through using the hyperlinks on the addresses to book your place on Eventbrite to your closest Time 2 Talk event. Details below…

AIVA OUT & ABOUT

Other events Aiva attended were the Midlands Machinery Show, Southern Counties Farming & Machinery Show, British Potato Event – Harrogate and Croptec, where there was a noticeable attendance of exhibitors focusing on regenerative/sustainable agricultural practices, and solutions to improving soil health and microbiology. The utilisation of biostimulants and nutrition and how they can all increase Nutrient Use Efficiency and biodiversity, including biological solutions and controls.

Sea2Soil on Farm – Integrated Soils – Joel Williams

Organised and sponsored by Sea to Soil and hosted by Lincolnshire farmer Paul Davey, Joel Williams presented to over 60 attendees the 2 key aspects of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE). Uptake (NUpE) and Utilisation (NUtE) of organic N (ON) and synthetic N (SN).

Joel expanded on the use of foliar Nitrogen and the importance of utilising the many different forms of Nitrogen that can be applied to improve uptake and utilisation. This includes products like Sea2Soil, a fish hydrolysate, as well as CITADEL with its complex sugars, carbohydrates, and amino acid profile. Amide N was also discussed. Joel maintained the importance of a balanced approach to foliar crop nutrition, with each element playing a key role in supporting robust plant defences.

Foliars don’t just support plant nutrition/health, but also the root exudates that drive chemistry, physics, and biology. He touched on the molecular effect of protein hydrolysate (Sea2Soil) as a biostimulant in plants and soil microorganisms to feed the soil biology, as well as induce plant immunity.

This was followed by a farm walk to discuss the benefits of herbal leys and cover crops that Paul Davey grows to improve soil life and health.

AHDB Mindrum Estate / Joel Williams

As part of Joel Williams’ tour of the UK, he’s been presenting at several AHDB Monitor and Strategic Farm events. One event at Mindrum Estate in the Scottish Borders, showcased farmer owner Tom Fairfax successfully employing regenerative practices into the organic conversation.

Tom presented his drivers for change at Mindrum as the estate, like many farmers, assessed their main challenges. His epiphany to challenge the norm came from attending the Dr Elaine Ingham’s “Soil Food Web” course, where he put his soils under the microscope, leading to a different mindset and strategy. He focused on “bringing the art back into farming”.

Moving away from an input-driven system, which is predicted, directive and complicated, to an intelligence-driven system that is active, complex, and contested. He tried to understand the impact of everything they do, so they can manage and optimise, leading to multiple regenerative projects in play. Some of these include

Tom’s presentation was followed by Joel Williams’ presentation on the multifunctionality of regenerative farming ecosystems and his insight into the 3 pillars of soil life. Physics, Biology and Chemistry and how they all integrate with plant life. What the key nutrition ‘pest and disease fighters’ are

  • Calcium, Silicon, Boron – cell strength
  • Manganese, Copper, Boron – structural compounds
  • Silicon, Manganese, Zinc, Sulphur – immune inducers

…and how they can be intentionally managed and optimised, as well as used to address excess/imbalanced Nitrogen. The need for nutrition design and diversity and how biologicals can provide an additional external layer of protection, with microbial diversity and specific antagonists, as part of an IPM system. This was followed by a field walk to see what benefits a Clover Canvas (understory) is having on soil life in the cereal rotation.