While, in some cases fields may be beginning to dry off on top, wetter soil at depth means patience is needed before cultivating to avoid creating poor seedbeds for sugar beet.
That is the view of, Philip Wright of Wright Resolutions, who says: “Consider how plastic the soil is in the profile to below working depth. If you can roll it into a long plastic ‘worm’ that bends easily without cracking, it is far too wet.”
Knowing where the wetter areas of fields are can help with devising a cultivation strategy, says Mr Wright. “If they are very difficult and the rest of the field is good, you may need to leave those [wetter areas] out for the time being.”
In some cases it may be best to leave these areas alone completely, says Mr Wright. “If you go in and do a bad cultivation which results in a smeary and possibly cloddy seedbed it is best not to do it. The last two seasons have shown that mauling crops in, for example cereals, you incur all the costs but you don’t get the return. It is a question of being patient and waiting a bit longer.”
When growers are able to get on the land, Mr Wright advises not cultivating too deeply or intensively. “Doing slightly less leaves the soil safer.”
With lighter soils, he suggests ploughing and pressing if it is dry enough. “If not, have the patience to plough and cultivate after– as shallow as necessary to get a seedbed. Cultivation at, say 60-70mm, is ideal for drilling at 30mm-40mm. You do not want too much depth of soil under the seed that could dry out if there is no rain.
“Careful consolidation comes in here with the press wheel on the drill. The theory is capillary movement - if you gently close the pores just enough, moisture can be drawn up from below. If it is not firm enough it cannot be drawn up; too firm and the seedbed can restrict seedling emergence and early root growth.” Using a Cambridge roller can also help, although rolling should be done with care, adds Mr Wright.