A spell of dry weather saw many growers take the opportunity to get on with land work last week following recent showery weather which delayed operations in some cases.
Essex-based farmer, Tom Bradshaw, who grows 1,485ha (3712.5 acres) of combinable crops said land work had started on March 13. “We are about a week behind where we would normally be. We’ve done no spraying and there’s a lot to go at.”
Sugar beet was drilled at the farm on Mar 15-16, spring beans on Mar 16, with plans to drill spring barley and spring oats soon after. “We need a dry fortnight to get the drilling done,” said Mr Bradshaw.
He planned to start fertiliser spreading earlier this week. Crops had wintered well, he said. “They look very well and full of potential. Winter barley is not as forward as wheat for some reason.”
Having just returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand, Agrii agronomist and farmer David Felce, based in Cambridgeshire, said it was all systems go. “Things have changed a lot in the last few days. We’ve only just started spraying. On some of the lighter land they have started drilling but not on the heavier land. Maybe in the next few days.
“A bit of fertiliser has gone on. Some of the crops that were later drilled are a bit less vigorous which may be due to phosphate and potash levels.”
Further north, it is a mixed picture. Yorkshire-based Agrii agronomist and farmer Rob Daniel said growers were progressing with spraying, fertiliser spreading and drilling. “It has altered in the last couple of days with some good drying weather. We are just about ahead of last year. We are drilling spring barley and spring beans and will get on to sugar beet shortly. Last week it was just on lighter land whereas this week people are getting on most soil types.”
But David Blacker, who farms 890ha (2225 acres) of clay loam north of York, is happy to wait until conditions are right. “We have quite a lot of beans to drill. A lot of fields have been sprayed off, ready but it’s still too wet to travel. We’ll wait for some more sun and wind. I’m not in a rush to get it in just at the moment.”
Crops have wintered well, but so have weeds, he said. “There are some wild oats, brome and bits of black-grass. We’ll be putting Atlantis on as soon as it’s dry enough to travel. Crops are well forward; they don’t look as though they need N in a great rush.
“We’re about at the stage where 70 per cent of land would travel but 30 per cent wouldn’t and it’s not worth making a mess of the 30 per cent for the sake of a few days.”
Near Berwick-upon-Tweed, Richard Reed, who farms 1170ha (2925 acres) of owned and contract farmed land which is predominantly medium loam over clay, has been making reasonable progress. “We apply liquid fertiliser and are fairly well up to date. With TSP and MOP we’ve struggled a bit to get it on. This week we’ve had high winds which could do to drop but I’m not panicking yet.”
He is hoping to apply T0 to barley this week and T0 to wheat in early April. And weather permitting, he is hoping to begin drilling spring wheat variety, Belepi this week, with spring barley and beans following soon after. “We’ll be putting some beans that are going into stronger ground in a bit later to allow it to dry out and warm up a bit more.”
In a departure from his usual spray programme, Mr Reed has already treated some fields for yellow rust. “I’ve seen it in Horatio, Revelation, Barrel and Graham. I’ve not seen as much at this time of year – there is more than before.
“We’ve treated some fields with half a litre of tebuconazole. We’re monitoring it and may apply more pre T0 if the infection looks like it is taking hold. We’ve never done a pre T0 on wheat before.”