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Making the best of spring cropping options

Dealing with the consequences of crop failure is testing for many growers this season.

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For many farmers attending the recent NFU conference, when they would get on to land and what they would sow on it when they did was uppermost in their minds.

 

NFU Cambridgeshire county chairman Nigel Rome farms on heavy clay land in north Cambridgeshire at Rome Farms near Peterborough. “We have been very affected by the weather,” he says. “We have drilled 8 per cent of our winter wheat – 5 per cent of that looks okay, 3 per cent looks doubtful. We have written off all our oilseed rape.

 

“The whole country is in the same boat. A lot feel isolated and as though it is just them. I am an optimist. I think it will dry up soon.”

 

Mr Rome normally grows winter OSR, winter wheat and spring barley to control black-grass and areas of crops will change dramatically due to lack of opportunities to drill (see table).

 

“I’m still hopeful we’ll get it drilled. If there is no more rain it will take 2-3 weeks of dry weather before we can do any land work.”


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Glut

 

Mindful that there could be a glut of spring barley, Mr Rome says the forward price is ‘quite good’ and that he may sell some forward. “With such big acreages there is likely to be very little premium for malting barley but there should be a good market for barley straw.

 

“We’ll try to grow spring barley as cheaply as we can and question every input use. It will be a lean year.”

 

He last grew spring OSR 25 years ago with mixed results but plans to redrill all land where winter OSR failed with this crop. “It keeps the rotation right and if it breaks even I’ll be quite happy and get a first wheat in after.”

 

Dave Morgan, a beef, sheep and arable farmer in Herefordshire who grows mainly wheat and maize had drilled three-quarters of his winter wheat crop but recent flooding in the area has seen ‘quite a lot flooded’.

 

“If we can’t salvage it we will grow maize for our anaerobic digester or oats and whole-crop them.”

 

Particularly badly affected by wet conditions have been the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland area, where only 15 per cent of winter cereals have been drilled, according to outgoing chairman for the area Oliver Lee.

 

“Farming on heavier ground there has been a natural transition to late drilling for black-grass control but this has back-fired this year. Little or no winter cereals are in the ground and those that are, are not looking pretty.

 

“Concerns are turning to spring sowing which is normally from mid-March – it is 100 per cent field capacity everywhere.”

 

Where arable crops cannot be sown, land is likely to be sown with grass leys, legumes or stubble turnips in what is a mixed farming area, says Mr Lee.

 

 

Rome Farms cropping

Usual cropping

Area (ha)

Estimated 2020 harvest cropping

Area (ha)

Winter oilseed rape

160

Winter oilseed rape

0

Spring oilseed rape

0

Spring oilseed rape

160

Winter wheat

440

Winter wheat

32

Spring wheat

0

Spring wheat

120

Canary seed

0

Canary seed

32

Spring barley

100

Spring barley

356

 

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