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Live crop monitoring trials launch at Fife farm

David Aglen, farms manager at Balbirnie Home Farms.
David Aglen, farms manager at Balbirnie Home Farms.

A Fife farm manager will amend crop nutrition in response to live crop monitoring as part of his involvement in an arable trials project.

David Aglen, farms manager at Balbirnie Home Farms near Freuchie, is taking part in the three-year Strategic Cereal Farm project with levy body, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The first year’s trial will look at whether amending crop nutrition in response to live crop monitoring – using a measure known as the Brix value – will have an economic benefit on crop health, yield and grain quality.

The Brix trials are being carried out on a crop of Istabraq winter wheat and three blocks will be assessed – a control tramline receiving standard nutritional inputs, but no fungicide; the farm standard; and a tramline receiving tailored nutrition treatments based on plant deficiencies calculated from the tissue analysis and Brix assessments, plus no fungicide.

Explaining how the Brix technique works, Mr Aglen said: “Throughout the growing season, we are using a refractometer to take Brix meter readings every week at the same time of day, in similar locations in the same field.

“A drop in the Brix measurement is being used as an indication of a drop in plant health – Brix is already used in the livestock sector to assess colostrum quality and in the horticulture sector to look at sugars in plants.”

He said if the Brix meter falls below the threshold of 10, immediate tissue testing is carried out and a decision is then made as to which micronutrients or macronutrients should be added to the wheat to correct any nutrient deficiencies in the crop.

AHDB knowledge exchange manager for arable, Chris Leslie, said tissue testing was an important part of integrated pest management (IPM) and an effective way of measuring what is getting into a plant.

More details about the trial are online at ahdb.org.uk

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