Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What a difference a week makes!

Thanks for stopping by. Reading Phil’s post last week brings home to me the differences at the SPot East site (as well as the things the two sites have in common).

The warmer day-time temperatures over the past ten days have meant the plants are beginning to venture above ground now here in the east.

Variety: Russet Burbank 
But make no mistake, it’s not all plain sailing, we face challenges in the East too! 
Clear skies and warm days have been followed by cold nights and a threat of frost, not forgetting that without significant rainfall, irrigation (which is costly) will be needed.

Friday I had a field day! Working with Mark Stalham (NIAB CUF) installing probes and taking soil samples. Why? Because this forms part of the nitrogen trial we are carrying out at SPot East, where nitrogen movement and plant requirements will be assessed under different irrigation regimes. 

Nitrogen probes to detect nitrogen leachate

We will be comparing an over-watered plot (twice as much water as crop evapotranspiration at every irrigation) with standard commercial practice and using nitrogen probes placed at 50cm depth to detect the amount of nitrogen leachate. The nitrogen probes have generously provided by Tony Miller from the John Innes Institute. Thank you Tony for your input to the SPot East activity.

Tony Miller, John Innes Institute with Mark Stalham (NIAB CUF) 

So Mark and I set to work, digging the holes to receive the probes, reeling out the cable and connecting the nitrogen probes to the monitor and taking soil samples. Mark used a ‘Dutch auger’ to take soil samples from 0-30 cm, 30-60 cm and 60-90cm depths respectively. 

Soil sampling and planting the probes 

Connecting the probes

Achieving representative samples from depth took some doing, as the overlying free draining sandy soil is relatively shallow and underneath is hard but permeable chalk. Small wonder then that efficient water management and irrigation plays such a big part of the operational management at SPot East.

In addition, I’ve been working on our OPEN DAY (5th July). 

Do book your place to come along so appropriate transport arrangements can be made to view the demonstrations and trials … you can do this via the booking form by clicking the following link: or visiting our events page:

Of course, there are huge benefits to being there on the day, and discussing directly with the experts your experience, challenges and views (how much does consultancy cost!) But I do appreciate this is not possible for everyone and I will keep posting site developments through the season. 

Please do drop me a line and tell me what you would like to see or know and I will do my best to find out the answers and provide pictures.


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