10 May 2001
Beet is in as spuds crack on

By Andrew Swallow

SUNSHINE without showers means most sugar beet is now drilled and potato planting is proceeding rapidly.

But advisers still urge patience on heavier soils.

We are getting on for 40-50% of potatoes planted, says Solanum group agriculture director David Hudson.

Growers have cracked on quite nicely and many of the smaller farmers will be finished by the end of this week.

“But the bigger growers still have a couple of weeks to go.

With lighter land planted up patience is now needed with preparing what is left, he says.

Next week we will be getting into the really tough stuff soils that have been very wet, slumped and lost structure.

He suggests marking out wheelings and putting a shallow tine through to start cultivations, then going deeper a couple of days later as land dries.

It is becoming more and more important not to compact soil. Make sure you dont put a wheel where a potato will grow.

Nationally, he estimates planted area will be 3-5% down and even on what has been planted 3-5% of potential yield has been lost. But the crop is very plastic and could really compensate for late planting if we get good growing conditions.

British Sugars Paul Bee is similarly hopeful for the sugar-beet crop. The later drillings have gone in very well. We should be finished by the end of the week.

With plants emerging rapidly from warm, moist seedbeds, weed control could be cheaper than normal.

Weeds will be soft so herbicides should be quite active and later plantings grow faster so theres less time to canopy closure, Mr Bee adds.

Some yield potential will inevitably have been lost by the late start so fungicides could be really worthwhile this year.

It is important to keep the plants as healthy as possible for late season growth. At A and B price its a very good payback.

Final crop area will not be known until June, but many growers have responded to calls to plant more, says Mr Bee. Our seed stores have been pretty busy.

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