Sugar beet growers have made a cautious start to drilling new season crops, but many are facing a waiting game as soils dry out.
Some progress has been made on lighter soils however a lack of winter frosts means many seedbeds have not weathered sufficiently and will require significant working i to create the right conditions. Heavier soils will need further drying before operations can begin, growers are reporting.
Cambridgeshire grower, Edd Banks and Tony Bambridge of B&C Farming, Norfolk, have started drilling new season sugar beet crops this week but most growers Farmers Guardian spoke to expressed concern drilling had not yet begun, saying seedbeds would require extra tillage.
Yorkshire farmer and contractor Graham Liddle has not started drilling the 334 hectares (825 acres) of sugar beet he has ahead of him. This is in contrast to last year, when he started drilling on March 8.
He says: “So far I have only had two customers thinking about drilling beet. However, I expect things to pick up soon if the weather is in our favour.
“Over the last 10 days we have had 50mm of rain on what is already saturated land. Preparing seedbeds to the quality we would normally like will be difficult.”
Another farmer eagerly waiting for soils to dry is Tim Beaver, Lincolnshire, who believes it is important to plant only when conditions are favourable.
“We have not started drilling yet. Although we are on light soils we have had a lot of rain recently.
“I believe in waiting until the conditions are fully appropriate – the soil temperature needs to be 7degC and rising in my view.
“The seed and establishment costs are too high for any risks to be taken, especially at current prices. However, if we leave it too late we risk losing the moisture, losing germination and decreasing the yield potential of a high input crop,” he says.
Growers on kinder soils indicated they would be looking to start drilling this week.
Agricultural consultant Robin Limb advises growers to wait until soil conditions are right.
He says: “The pressure to drill will not really come until April so, despite any grower’s eagerness to drill beet, this year’s motto should be, ‘hold off until conditions are right’.”
It's all action today the sun is shining and we're getting the last of the sugar beet land ready for drilling! pic.twitter.com/CR7KSO8ac9— Glover Agriculture (@Glover_Ag)