At the time of writing it is still very dry in East Anglia and some growers are even suggesting it’s worse than the long hot summer of 2018, which seems incredible.
Certainly, the grass growth is slowing, but I don’t think its as bad as last year, for us at least, although the garden pond is dry, despite living on the flood plain of the River Waveney.
The drainage system of the water meadows is about the same level as in 2018 but it’s managed by the Environment Agency so they can maintain a higher water level.
I have however, just started so see some grass being irrigated for cattle grazing on the slightly higher ground, which is a first for me, so that in itself tells a story.
The sugar beet campaign has started and first indications of yields are strong.
Heavier soils, especially where it had heavy rains followed by very hot and windy weather are proving a challenge for both harvesters and patience.
It’s now very tight and lifting whole beet without leaving some in the ground, along with wear and tear on the harvesting will be high.
A good dollop of rain will help but there is nothing in the immediate forecast.
Although who knows when you’re reading this it could be pouring down and everyone wanting it to stop - such are the vagaries of the UK weather.
There is some evidence of disease about, especially rust, but the anticipated cercospora is still not as bad as it could be as it’s too dry for it to develop rapidly.
It came in late last year and rapidly defoliated some crops, so not a time to be relaxing with fungicides, especially if you’re lifting later into the year or early next.
The beet price for 2020 has just been announced and yield will once again be the key to success in the crop, so the lessons learned about the attention to detail of all the finalists in the Beet Yield Challenge will be needed by all growers.
The potato harvest is suffering with the dry conditions with some growers having to get out the irrigators to help lift crops where they are set solid in the ground.
If dry matter is high, irrigation post burn-down will have very little effect in getting water into the tubers apart from some osmosis.
Once the crop has been stopped and the stolon’s have been abscised there is no longer any transport of water via the plant so the amount that can be taken up is minimal.
This means irrigation will have very little effect on bruising apart from possibly keeping some soil on the web to reduce the physical damage at lifting.
Where possible its best to irrigate pre-burn down at least then the crop has some opportunity to affect the turgor of the tubers prior to lifting.
One of the big issues facing growers is the loss of CIPC (chlorpropham), not only for its ability to control tubers but also the fact that stores that have been gassed in the past will still be leaking CIPC to the crop.
The industry is working hard to get extensions for a gradual MRL reduction to make stores useable for storage whilst this depletion of the CIPC in the actual fabric of the store occurs.
AHDB Potatoes are working hard with packers, processors and other members of the CIPC task force to come up with a series of guidelines and best practice advice on cleaning of old stores to accelerate this depletion.
Please keep an eye out or speak to your local AHDB knowledge exchange manager for all the latest for this information.