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High fertiliser prices are encouraging more farmers to seek out cheaper alternatives – but timing is critical to get the best from applications. Biologicals help farmers cut back on nitrogen

High fertiliser prices are encouraging more farmers to seek out cheaper alternatives – but timing is critical to get the best from applications.

Cambridgeshire grower Russ McKenzie says he has seen winter wheat yields increase by about 300kg/ha using the biological product Twoxo alongside nitrogen fertiliser on his 140ha no-till farm near Huntingdon.

“It may seem like a modest yield improvement, but we have trials to prove it and Twoxo gives a good bang for its buck,” says Mr McKenzie.

“We use it at growth stage 32 to boost nitrogen uptake in the wheat at a key time. It’s a no brainer product to build the foundations of a good yield.”

Mr McKenzie adds: “Twoxo is good at supporting what you’re doing and gets the plant working for itself.

“We’ve reduced nitrogen from the standard 200kg/ha to 180kg/ha and biologicals have helped us to trim it back.”

Good rooting

Mr McKenzie applies Twoxo on winter wheat that has good rooting and is looking healthy. “If you have a crop that’s struggling you might use a different product, but if you have good rooting, it pushes nitrogen use efficiency in the plant.”

John Haywood, of Twoxo supplier Unium Biosciences, says Twoxo can be used between growth stage 30-37 with the optimum timing at stage 31-32. “It’s a signalling compound designed to enhance nitrogen use efficiency and carbon sequestration.”

The product has two modes of action. The first is when the plant photosynthesises and fixes carbon, the Twoso signals to the plant to up-regulate the nitrogen uptake to bond to the carbon. It can also up-regulate photosynthesis to bond carbon to nitrogen.

“The carbon helps to keep the balance in the assimilation,” says Mr Haywood.

“We know that excess use of nitrogen causes lush floppy growth, making cells extend rather than divide, and carbon is central to optimising nitrogen use in the plant. Also, if excess nitrogen is exuded off the leaf it encourages pathogens and bugs.”