Agronomy and Research Update July '24
Field Vision

It's been a busy month out and about visiting organic farms across the country to look at the variety trials and walk farm crops. Below are some of my views on the trials and more general thoughts on the crops I've seen.


The trials are all looking good, with some strong indications that Extase, Mayflower and the blend will perform well, and with new varieties Redwald, Highgrove and Champion suggesting good yield potential. Of these three varieties, Redwald is the most interesting to me as it had very high vigour from late winter to late spring, a desirable trait for weed suppression. Highgrove exhibited very high vigour in late winter/early spring but slowed down significantly thereafter, although, in terms of weed suppression, the early vigour is what counts. To me there is a sense that "early" varieties have been disadvantaged by the season and difficult soil conditions in spring...this would include Extase. We eagerly await the yield results.


Farm crops of Mascani are looking almost universally excellent!  This really is the most reliable of crops and seems to perform no matter what.  By far the best crops I see are drilled on a narrow row width (125mm) with high seed rates, smothering out any weed that dare try to compete! Mascani had a slow start to the season, evident in the LiveOat trials where Cromwell (bred from Mascani) was further ahead in early spring in terms of biomass. Over the course of the spring and early summer Mascani caught up and then over took cromwell, as did the other winter variety Eagle. This could again be the season and soil conditions disadvantaging an "early" variety. As with the Extase/Mayflower blend, my gut tells me a blend of Mascani and Cromwell could be a match made in heaven. Both in terms of the temporal complementarity as there is a significant difference in their growth cycles,  but also given Cromwell's high early vigour to compensate for Mascani's rather slow start to the season. In theory the grain quality should be high and White's may even be willing to entertain running blends through the mill, which may be a game changer.

Crown rust has badly affected winter crops this June with very high disease pressure this year and with oat volunteers, especially spring oats, acting as a green bridge as a source of inoculum.

Spring oat crops I've seen are generally looking very well too, regardless of drilling date. The varieties we have the the trials this year look exceptional, with Timpani, a new IBERS (breeders of Mascani) variety currently in NL trials. It is very vigourous, highly disease resistant, covers the ground and looks as though it as very high yield potential. If it lives up to this potential and White's like the grain quality it could well be one we try to secure for the Organic Arable/White's supply chain. Zenith also looks strong, and  has exceptionally large grains so it will be interesting to see how White's evaluate it. You can enjoy pictures of this gorgeous spring oat below!


Farm crops of winter beans look fantastic, especially where disease has not yet taken hold. Winter beans are very tall and vigourous this season having enjoyed the very wet winter and spring. A season like this shows beans in their best light. The winter bean trials suggest that Vespa may be more chocolate spot susceptible than others and that tundra may be a better option if chocolate spot is a major issue. The cleanest winter beans are from late drilling... crops drilled late November to January have very little sign of disease, regardless of variety. Yields from the trials will be crucial as there look to be big differences in podding.

ORC are running a spring bean plot trial in Herefordshire and the early indications are that Futura, Victus and Louhi are showing the greatest early vigour. They have included blends to see if yield can be improved from this approach.