10 May 2001
Fine weather brings relief to growers

By Andew Blake

A RUN of fine days has helped growers clear the unprecedented backlog of fieldwork across the country, after the seemingly endless wet, cold and windy spring.

The long-awaited change to better weather over the May Bank Holiday weekend and earlier this week meant most planned sowings and outstanding T1 fungicide treatments were expected to be done by Friday (11 May).

It is a relief, said ADASs John Garstang. But with some main top dressings still outstanding, showers to dampen widespread dry soil crusts would be welcome, others suggested.

Some further spring barley sowing was expected, bringing this seasons area to a possible 800,000ha, up 45% on last year.

The big question is how much set-aside there will be, said Mr Garstang.

Spring rape is going in like mad, but the area is never very high about 80,000ha. And despite some revived interest in linseed the area is unlikely to exceed 60,000ha, he added.

Many farms are expected to have 50% more set-aside than last year, estimated Chris Bean, UAP technical director.

Unlike last year, when first septoria strikes were often delayed, the huge range of crop progress has worked in growers favour, easing workloads.

Some south-western wheats still only had three tillers, yet other early sowings were near flag leaf emergence, noted Agrovistas Arthur Hulls.

I have never seen such a wide range in growth stages, said Shropshire-based independent consultant Bryce Rham.

Rhyncho in barley was becoming quite bad, but dry weather and frosts have stopped it dramatically.

Fungicide programmes are being tailored much more carefully, suggested Northamptonshire-based AICC member Malcolm Harrison.

We shall assess each crop individually. It is an over-simplification, but there is clearly no point in using full doses on crops with only half potential.

Kinder weather, allowing unexpectedly successful blackgrass control, albeit with the heavy guns, has been especially helpful, said Bob Mills of Banks Cargill.

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