2 March 2001

NOWFLOODS POSE CROPPING QUERIES

With cropping plans widely

disrupted by unrelenting wet

weather, many growers

across the country will be

entering new territory this

spring. Andrew Blake sifts

through the advice on offer

SET-ASIDE may seem tempting, says Will Gemmill of Strutt & Parker: "But there are no clear cut answers. Every farm has to be treated as an individual case.

"If you have heavy land which has been flooded for weeks and you are unlikely to get anything sown before April, the logical solution is set-aside."

But with the gross margin of most cropping options £250-£300/ha (£100-£120/acre) better than set-aside, it should pay to try to sow something, he believes.

Only where significant fixed cost savings can be made may set-aside come into its own.

"You have to work out your marginal costs," he says.

Much depends on the position of the unsown field in the rotation. "If it was going to be a first wheat you will probably be looking to sow some form of spring cereal to keep the rotation intact and take advantage of the small uplift in yield."

Fields destined for second or subsequent cereals may merit different tactics. Cereal seed growers however may see unsown areas as a chance to introduce a useful double-break, he notes.

"On a lot of our clients farms we shall spread the risks by sowing spring wheat and spring barley. Spring beans are also a strong possibility."