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Two crop trials aim to determine whether soil biostimulants are suitable for an arable strip seeding system in Suffolk. Soil biostimulant trials get under way on Suffolk farm

• Trials on two products over five years

• Goal is to determine strip-till suitability

• Aim to improve yield and soil structure

Two crop trials aim to determine whether soil biostimulants are suitable for an arable strip seeding system in Suffolk.

Keen to stay ahead on yield, Suffolk farmer and Claydon Drill chief executive Jeff Claydon is hosting trials on two Olmix biostimulant programmes this season. He believes they will be well-suited to his Claydon Opti-Till direct strip seeding technology.

The Claydon family has farmed the heavy Grade 2 hanslope clay land since the early 1900s. Brothers Jeff and Frank started out in 1970 and continue to farm 340ha of arable land at Wickhambrook, near Newmarket.

“We have always looked at innovations that can increase yield,” explains Jeff.

“The manufacturing side of the business began in 1981, when Claydon Yield-o-Meter was established to sell its yield monitoring system for combines. Olmix has encouraged me to host this biostimulant trial to see if they can bring more yield to the party.”

Trial programme

The plots are a tramline width (36m) and run the length of the 360m-long field. Two products used in the programmes are Neosol, a soil microbial biomass activator, and Primeo S12, a soil nutrition stimulator, both of which are applied at drilling.

Plots will be harvested by a commercial combine harvester. As well as yield, the team will measure crop development, plant health and quality – including grain protein, says agronomist Guy Gibson at Advanced Efficacy, who is running the trial.

The trials will run as two programmes over five years. One will include Neosol (150kg/ha) plus four foliar applications based on Olmix active biostimulant Elevate. The other will have Primeo S12 (150kg/ha) plus four foliar applications based on Olmix active biostimulant Bioman.

The final plot will be the farm’s own programme, used as the control, says Mr Gibson. “The farm’s soil is very healthy, so if we are going to see any effect of Neosol and Primeo S12 we will see it before the third application of foliar biostimulant around mid-April.”

The farm’s rotation is two wheats followed by an oilseed rape or winter oat break crop.

Winter wheat in the trial field was drilled in mid-October, says Mr Claydon. Fertiliser is broadcast into the 10cm band where it is strip-tilled alongside the seeds – this means they are both in the same growing zone.

“We spray fields off before drilling and everything is direct seeded using a Claydon Opti-Till drill,” he explains. “The drill’s leading tine technology loosens soil where necessary – in the rooting and seeding zone. The bands in between the seeded rows are left undisturbed.”

Recent growth in the trial plots has been checked because of cold temperatures and snow cover but all plots looked well in November, says Mr Gibson. “I am hoping to see differences between the trials in tiller count in March and April, compared with the farm’s standard programme.”

Return on investment

Repeating the trials over a five-year period is important to give a consistent return on investment, says Olmix manager Grant James. It also means the biostimulants will be tested over a range of different conditions.

“Biostimulants perform best in adverse conditions, so if you have a year where conditions are good, you may not see them performing at their maximum potential. Trialling over five years, you are less likely to have perfect conditions every year, and more likely to see their positive benefits.”

In a recent five-year trial in the Czech Republic, Neosol led to better soil structure and higher yields. This allowed crops to meet their genetic potential, says Olmix international soil expert Benoit Le Rumeur.

“These soil structural improvements provide better conditions for plant growth, allowing improved rooting and nutrient take up, as well as water availability.”