Most game cover and wild bird seed mix crops require good nutrition for successful establishment. The major nutrients are Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium and these can be bought in different ratios in compounded or blended fertilisers. If you haven't done a soil test for a few years then you should to establish which nutrients are already available and which need increasing. If there is an imbalance of nutrients too much of one can cause a lock-up of another so don't just buy 'compound' - make sure you know the analysis and that is fits your soil requirements. If the soil pH is either too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic) this will also effect nutrient availability, so try to maintain the soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5. As most game crops have a relatively short growing season most of the fertiliser requirement should be applied in the seedbed with any additional applied soon after emergence.
Are often overlooked because basic soil tests do not test for micronutrients. But, even if you have a more expensive soil analysis done to test for micro’s it does not mean that because it is in the soil it is available to the plant. Because of the relatively short growing period that spring sown crops have, any hold up in growth can have a significant effect on the end result and it is often a shortage of micronutrients such as manganese, magnesium and, in the case of brassicas in particular , Boron, that can prevent the crops from optimal growth. We supply several trace elements in the form of foliar applied sprays to alleviate or even prevent the symptoms of deficiency from becoming apparent.
You can throw as much fertiliser and chemical at a crop as you like, but if the soil structure ad pH is poor, you are simply wasting money and probably polluting water and the atmosphere as well! The difficulty with game crops is that they are often sited in less than ideal spots such as shaded or poorly drained areas of the field. They are rarely rotated and are often small or an awkward shape which means cultivation is tricky and can result in compaction. They are usually ploughed in the spring which reduces organic matter through oxidisation and then have to be beaten to death with a power harrow to get any sort of seedbed. This inevitably leads to soil with poor structure which is less able to hold and make nutrients available to the plant.
So, before spending a fortune on artificial inputs, look at what you are doing to your soil and see if there are ways you can improve it.
Do you have to plough?
Can you source any farm yard manure?
Don't cultivate when the ground is wet.
Think about adding legumes to biennial mixes.
At Oakbank, we don't publish a herbicide safety chart as there is much more to a chemical recommendation than a trial showing that herbicide X appears to be safe on plant Y. We do try and put together mixes that are sprayable and can help with decisions about weed control. The No1 tip for weed control in game cover and wild bird seed mixes is to do it early. A stale seedbed followed by a robust pre-emergence herbicide will give the crop the best possible start. If any aggressive weeds such as barnyard grass or redshank get through the pre-em, then get them sprayed as soon as possible. Once the canopy meets in the rows the crop itself will control most weeds.
If you are unsure on what to spray, or want some more advice please give Tim or Ian a ring in the office on 01480 890686