19 June 1998

No shortage of rainfall…

SPRING weather this year has taken on a peculiar pattern following a very mild, dry February. March rainfall was only a little above average with 14 days of no recordable rain.

April, however, was notable for its record rainfall, both high monthly and daily totals. There was only one day when no rain was recorded and the total for the month was 143.2mm (5.6in) close to the all-time high of 149.7mm (5.9in) which fell during June 1982.

The highest rainfall in any one day fell on Apr 9 and totalled 58.2mm (2.3in). May, however, was the opposite extreme being both warm and dry, only 9.6mm (0.4in) being evenly distributed throughout the month. The table shows the comparison for spring rainfall between 1998 and the previous five years.

Just as we were wondering if the drought was settling in, June produced a good soaking. During the first 10 days we had 60.1mm (2.4in), the bulk falling on June 2 when we received 28.5mm (1.1in) in 24hr.

The result of which has meant that we have some flat crops: 20 ha (49 acres) of early drilled Drake has been knocked about on the headlands and overlaps as well as a fertile valley in the centre of the field. Linseed too, has been flattened but may recover. To my surprise, the winter barley remains standing but no doubt will succumb if the heavy showers and wind which are forecast, hit us again.

Looking back in our rainfall records I see that June last year was exceptional in that we had 142.7mm (5.6in). It may well be that having had more than the mean rainfall for this month already, we shall start to regret the rain-dances performed last month when early signs of burning up were appearing in the cereals.

My sympathies are with the management team who look after Haverholme Farm Partnership, hosts for Cereals 98. As I write the rain is bouncing off the concrete in the yard and the wind is blowing from the north east and I am debating whether I should tear myself away from my coffee to brace the elements to join those thirsting for information near Sleaford at the Cereals and Combinable Crops Event.

Traffic problems

I remember all too well the problems caused by traffic and the 10,000 visitors to Cereals back in 1993 when Easton Lodge hosted the event. Both May & June were wet that year but the limestone soils of south Lincolnshire were capable of mopping it up and produced the best cereal yield we have ever had.

Last month we reported that our wait-and-see policy for weed control in sugar beet was getting a little hairy. Drilled on Mar 24 and Apr 1, the beet has grown reasonably well despite cold, wet conditions in April.

Nitrogen was applied in two applications a week after drilling and again in mid-May to total 90kgN/Ha (72 units/acre).

Small areas received a herbicide early on, principally to control knot-grass on headlands, but the first main spray was held back until May 22.

This comprised a tank mix of phenmedipham, ethofumesate, chloridazon and oil followed a week later with phenmedipham, lenacil, triflusulfuron and oil. Total spray costs to date amount to £70.11/ha (£28.38/acre) but we may still need to apply a graminicide at a later date. Charlock, knot-grass, pansy and black bindweed have been well controlled and even fools parsley looks far from well after this onslaught.

Of the other spring-sown crops the Sancho peas are podding nicely and look equally as good a crop as last year. The weed control to date is working well with just one pre-emergent herbicide applied at a cost of £17.59/ha (£7.12/acre) against £36.55/ha (£14.80/acre) in 1997. We shall be spraying a fungicide and insecticide to control botrytis and aphids as soon as weather conditions allow.

The Riviera spring barley looks less lush than last year which bodes well for the Mongita perennial ryegrass under-sown for next year. We have used less nitrogen this year, applied two weeks after drilling at 134kgN/ha (107 units/acre) compared with 158kg/ha (126 units/acre) last year.

Seed bed fertiliser was not applied, seed costs were down both in price and number of seeds sown, but spray costs were up by 38.5%. That was mainly due to the use of chlorpyrifos to control leather-jackets costing £15.30/ha (£6.19/acre) and more expensive growth regulators. Total growing costs to date are £159.05/ha (£64.39/acre) compared to £205.02/ha (£83.00/acre) in 1997.

Easton Lodge spring rainfall (five years)

1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993

March 49.5 10.0 27.1 30.5 60.7 13.9

April 143.2 26.7 23.7 13.2 49.2 82.2

May 9.6 72.1 24.6 34.3 45.1 57.1

Total 3 months 202.3 108.8 75.4 78.0 155.0 153.2

Farm foreman David Cham finds a gap between the showers to apply a second dose of herbicide to 26ha (63 acres) of sugar beet. The tank-mix comprised phenmedipham, lenacil, triflusulfuron and oil.