19 June 1998

Learn from the spring

MANY husbandry lessons can be learned from this years exceptional growing conditions, say Cereals 98 specialists.

The difficult spring has highlighted the lack of well thought-through, albeit flexible, plans. Many growers also persist in adjusting inputs to changing conditions too haphazardly, they add.

"Season-long planning is the key," says ADAS head of arable, Julian Hayes. "This years weather has certainly picked out fields where management was wrong. Management decisions are even more critical when margins are squeezed."

The temptation under economic pressure is to cut inputs, adds Mr Hayes. "But the farmers who will make the most profit are those who have kept inputs up."

A common problem, says Axients Bill Barr, is that growers react too violently to one season, which may be very different to the next. Lodging, highly likely this year, makes his case. Several non-lodging years have encouraged higher nitrogen inputs. "Next year I expect rates will be down, but that could be completely wrong." Growers must take a longer-term view, monitor crops more closely to see how they compare with the average, and adjust inputs accordingly, he advises.

"The thing that stands out this year is the unpredictability of what we are dealing with," says Dick Neale, of crop protection specialist Hutchinson.

"Planning and sticking to your guns with a simple adjustable approach pays off year in, year out, wet or dry." &#42