Keith Challen, farms director at Belvoir Farming Company, Leics, is heading into another season of using biostimulants, and says amino acid products will be more important than ever this year.

“We’re a heavy land farm here – with incredibly high clay content – so stress is a regular occurrence. Whether that’s from waterlogging or drought, at some point in the growing season, our crops see stress.”

To compensate for this, Keith uses Bridgeway or Zonda as a “stressbuster” and says his crops have performed significantly better where it’s been used. So much so, that it’s now a consistent feature within his crop protection programme.

From his own on-farm trials, Keith says he’s seen around a 0.4-0.5t/ha uplift in yield as a direct result of using Bridgeway. “The more stressful the situation is, the better bang for our buck we get. In most places, we’ve seen a high margin over cost.”

2018 - Zonda treated Wheat c.v. Graham out-yielded the untreated by +0.97 t/ha worth a margin over input cost of £120/ha

Zonda 2.0 L/ha applied at T0 fb T1

Weighbridge yield results: Untreated yield 9.20 t/ha; Zonda 10.17 t/ha; Extra 0.97 t/ha

2017 - Bridgeway treated Wheat c.v. Marston out-yielded the untreated by +0.4 t/ha with an extra margin over cost of £40/ha

Bridgeway 2.0 L/ha applied at T1

Weighbridge yield results: Untreated yield 10.14 t/ha; Bridgeway 10.54 t/ha; Extra 0.4 t/ha

Keith has also been testing Interagro’s new seed treatment – Newton – for the past two years and is about to start year three.

“Newton is a biostimulant seed treatment which improves germination, rooting and shooting, as well as abiotic stress tolerance and is approved for use in cereals – both conventional and organic. It’s another element of protection for crops facing stress.”

2019 - Newton helped Winter Barley c.v. Bazooka establish faster and increased vigor in Spring

Field visit 20th May 2019 - 12m untreated strip is shorter with less biomass.

2019 - Newton increased Bazooka yield by +0.49 t/ha worth £58.80/ha

Weighbridge yield results: Untreated 9.31 t/ha; Newton treated 9.80 t/ha; Extra 0.49 t/ha worth £58.80/ha

2018 - Newton treated Spring Barley c.v. Planet had approx 30% more roots 15 days post drilling

Field visit 10th May 2018. No additional seed dressing applied to the crop.

2018 - Newton improved Planet yield by +0.6 t/ha

Weighbridge yield results: Untreated 6.68 t/ha; Newton 7.28 t/ha; Extra +0.6 t/ha

With Zonda now approved for use on organic crops too, Keith says he’ll be using the product on the organic elders he grows for Belvoir Fruit Farms. “Just like combinable crops, our elders also experience stress – whether that’s waterlogging, pests or diseases – but because of their organic status, we have a limited portfolio of products at our disposal.

“Last year, we did some trials using Bridgeway on our elders and we consistently saw bigger florets.”

Fig 1. Greener, healthier elder leaves after Bridgeway application.

Fig 2. Bigger elder florets following two applications of Bridgeway.

When using both Bridgeway and Zonda, Keith says he’ll be looking to target application as early as possible this spring to give crops the best chance in an already difficult season. “We’ve found that the earlier we apply the product, the better. If the crop does run into any stress, then it will already have the ability to cope better.”

Going forward, Keith is looking to push the capabilities of biostimulants to see if he can reduce reliance on fungicides.

“From a sustainability point of view, we’re going to have to use a smaller number of chemicals in the future, so I’d like to see if we can have a less robust fungicide programme because of using amino acid products.“In theory, if the plant is inherently healthy, it’s less like to need chemical intervention.”

Keith Challen, Farms Director, Belvoir Farming Company