Tuesday, 18 February 2014

FAR field day in Southland

Steve  took me to a local field day organised by FAR, I was looking forward to seeing how FAR deliver their research to local farmers, having visited them early on my trip. On the way to the field day we went to an oat growers group meeting looking at the difference between spring and winter oats.
Spring Oat trial

It was interesting to see the differences in management between the UK and NZ. We are both targeting the same yield, but NZ farmers are applying 50 % more nitrogen than we do, using more PGR resulting in taller crops which are more prone to lodging. The comparison between autumn sown and spring sown oats was showing that often spring oats would give the best return. Growing spring oats could be an option in the rotation at home, if we can achieve comparable yields and harvest the crop early enough. As a spring crop would be an advantage in weed control and could also give the option to grow a cover crop or even a winter forage crop. The oat group was also looking at how oats could be better used and marketed, either as a dry ingredient in food stuffs or using it to produce oat milk for the growing lactose intolerant Chinese population. The oat milk plant could have the potential to use 75,000 T pa, and considering only about 5,000 T pa are produced in southland at the moment, there is substantial growth required.
After lunch we went along to the FAR field day and looked at forage spring barley trials, winter wheat trials and were given a demonstration of the Gardyne's drone. The spring barley trial was looking at nitrogen application rates and timings, varying from 0 to 300kgN and Growth stage 22 to GS 39. The high rates of N had the best appearance and highest yield potential, but time will tell.
Spring barley nitrogen trial
Winter wheat trials were being carried out similar to the 20/20 project at rothamsted and fellow Nuffield scholar Jake Freestone's topic. They were focusing on PGR usage to increase yield through more targeted applications and possibly using a PGR in the autumn. Alongside that cultivar or variety selection is being investigated, and looking at the selection process in reverse, starting with yield potential and working backwards to find the correct cultivar. A broad fungicide trial is also being carried out to try to identify how the triazole chemistry is standing up to resistance, comparing different active ingredients, rates and timings. Some new SDHI (Succinate Dehydrogenase inhibitor) fungicides which are only just available in NZ. All this work had resulted in trial plot yields of 16.9 T/ha, but were not at that level consistently in the field.
It was a good day and well attended by local farmers and clearly showed how well FAR delivered the results of their research to farmers in a useful way which could be easily adopted by them.

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