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Crops feel the bite of ‘the beast’

As farmers battled with the day-to-day challenges associated with sub-zero temperatures, the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma have tested many crops and delayed field operations across much of the UK.


Abby   Kellett

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It appears that crops which have not been exposed to large amounts of snow have suffered the most, according to Procam agronomist Neil Woolliscroft, based in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

 

He says: “The strong easterly winds have led to wind chill of up to -14 deg C and over a 24 hour period, crops that looked really well at early tillering have virtually disappeared. The full effects will not be known until temperatures for active growth resume.”

Field operations such as spraying, fertiliser application and spring planting are expected to be delayed by at least two weeks in some areas, depending on the speed of the thaw.

 

Only half the early Cornish potato crop area that would normally have been planted by early March has actually been planted, according to AHDB, and some crops are already showing signs of damage as a result of the cold weather.

 

Yorkshire agronomist Patrick Stephenson is not expecting to apply herbicides in his area until the second half of March. “At the moment it’s very cold but I would imagine that we’ll get out with a post-em around March 20 once things have warmed up a bit,” he says.

 

The delay means it is even more critical that conditions are optimum during post-em application, according to Ben Giles of Bayer. “Even if the soil surface looks quite dry, it is usually still wet and sticky just beneath so the amount of rainfall over the next couple of weeks is going to be really important in dictating when we can apply a post-em.

“Active growth is essential to get efficacy from the post-em so make sure plants have woken up after this cold spell. Do not underestimate the importance of sunlight – a few bright days will kick-start active growth.”

 

Farmers are also being encouraged to provide supplementary feed to farmland birds, which are at risk of starvation as a result of the thick snow coverings across the country.

Tim Field, environment surveyor at Agricology says: “Farmland birds are particularly affected by cold weather, especially when it snows as this covers up the meagre remains of seeds left at this time of year. Farmers can help by supplementary feeding birds with a mixture of wheat, oilseed rape and millet and spreading this mix down trackways on the farm.”

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