Don’t miss this month’s new look Arable Farming. Take a look at the digital edition today.
It would be impossible to start my editorial this month with mention of anything other than the weather. We are two weeks into May as I write and here in my corner of west Suffolk, as in so many other regions across the country, we are desperately in need of a decent spell of rain.
Temperatures have finally warmed up but the lack of moisture means spring crops have been slow to get going, while winter barley in particular, after hanging round for a while, now appears to have settled on a dash to harvest.
We have a saying in this part of the world that sugar beet should meet down the row by the time of the Hadleigh Show (May 20 this year) and across the row by the Suffolk Show (May 31/June 1). At the moment I think there will be quite a few crops which miss these targets, though a good rain could change everything.
But as we anxiously monitor growth stages and seek out spray windows at each end of yet another blustery day, it is of course important to keep in mind that we are aiming to protect crops against what might lie ahead. Disease continues to develop, in spite of the conditions, and would without doubt exploit any chinks in the armour opened up by over-zealous trimming of fungicide programmes.
With the Cereals Event approaching now is the time to start refining variety choice for harvest 2018. In this issue we take a look at variety options in the contexts of changing wheat market dynamics, the increasing incidence of clubroot in oilseed rape and of growing interest in spring oats in the eastern counties in particular.
Earlier this week I joined an Agri-Tech East ‘Smarter, Not Harder’ workshop, hosted in conjunction with the EU smart farming initiative Smart-AKIS. We had progress updates from a number of businesses – early stage and established – offering precision agriculture tools, followed by breakout sessions to consider ideas for new or evolved smart farming solutions.
The progress being made in precision farming technology is without doubt exciting, with beyond-line-of-sight drone operation and pre-symptomatic cereal disease identification among current developments.
However, the message from growers in the breakout session I joined was that improvements are needed urgently in terms of compatibility between machines and software systems and equally urgent is progress in the provision of tools enabling growers to utilise the data generated by precision farming. These requests from growers are oft-repeated and those with an eye for opportunities in smart farming or involved in providing research funding would do well to heed them.