13 March 1998

Drilling plan well on schedule

RECENT wet weather has stopped spring drilling in most areas. But plantings are ahead of normal and most crops have emerged well.

Nationally 70% of spring cereals have been drilled, 30-40% of peas and virtually all the spring beans, estimates Dalgetys David Neale.

"In central-southern areas we estimate 30% of spring linseed has gone in too. The pressure from farmers to deliver seed early has been tremendous."

In the Borders half the spring barley is in. Although drilling had stopped earlier this week, growers could finish in three weeks if conditions improve, says Peter Wastling of MSP at Berwick-upon-Tweed. "Beans are mostly drilled, but it is still too early for spring rape."

Further north in Scotland bad weather has halted drilling for a fortnight. "Some farms started barley early, but theres nothing through yet," reports Glencores Ian Simpson.

Cereal and pulse crops drilled early in good conditions shouldnt suffer from the change in weather, says Mr Neale. But he is concerned about linseed. "Growers have got away with drilling early in the past. But linseed is not as robust as larger seeded crops and may struggle in cold wet conditions."

In Shropshire early drilled spring barley is off to a flying start. "Crops drilled in January and early February have greened over already, which is pretty amazing for this time of year," says Simon Scott at Harnage Estate, Shrewsbury. &#42