Are Norfolk’s farm crops in need of more sulphur?

PUBLISHED: 11:37 12 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:38 12 July 2018

Frontier Agriculture hosted an open day at its crop demonstration site at Honingham. Picture: Emily Page / Frontier.

Frontier Agriculture hosted an open day at its crop demonstration site at Honingham. Picture: Emily Page / Frontier.

Emily Page / Frontier

Norfolk farmers were urged to consider whether their crops need more sulphur during an open evening which also highlighted the latest insights from wheat variety trials.

More than 100 growers were welcomed to Frontier Agriculture’s 3D Thinking crop demonstration site at Honingham Thorpe Farms, outside Norwich, to hear from crop production experts and to meet machinery dealers and chemical manufacturers.

After an extraordinary season of weather, the event offered a chance to reflect on crop performance after this year’s wet spring and dry, hot summer – and to look ahead to which choices to make in the 2018/19 season.

Edward Downing, national crop nutrition technical manager for Frontier, emphasised the importance of sulphur within crop nutrition programmes.

He said: “It’s not unique to Norfolk, but sulphur is a vital but often overlooked element of nutrition, especially in crops like peas, beans, sugar beet and grass.

“In recent decades the level of sulphur being deposited from the atmosphere has fallen dramatically to only the odd kilo per hectare each year, driven by environmental progress. Growers need to replace that by selecting a product that contains sulphur because it is vital if a crop is to reach its potential.”

The stark differences between trial plants, with and without sulphur applied, helped bring home the message about the importance of this nutrient.

Mr Downing said applying 50kg per hectare of SO3 (Sulphur trioxide) adds £11.50 per hectare to the chemical programme – but this costs far less than losing a crop’s potential.

The main focus of the evening was winter wheat variety trials. Frontier agronomist Emily Page said, along with the “old favourites”, new varieties such as Elicit in Group 3 and Gleam and Gravity in Group 4 caught growers’ eyes.

Of the candidate varieties, she said LG Interstellar looked impressive with its green leaf area retention in the recent dry weather, and the high-yielding LG Skyscraper “will be certain to grab headlines”.

Other demonstrations included precision farming techniques which can help farmers to understand and manage variations in their soil and crops.

Alex Dinsdale, area manager for SOYL showed how by mapping changes in soil nutrients across the field and then tailoring fertiliser applications accordingly, farmers can ensure the crop achieves its full potential, while avoiding wasteful over-application, or yield-denting under-application.

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