28 February 1997

Rains bring wheat a bit too forward for comfort

Mild weather has left most crops raring to go, as our first seasonal round up of barometer growers reveals. Andrew Blake reports

AFTER one of the driest Januarys on record, February rains have stimulated a spurt of growth on most barometer farms. Only in Scotland have the downpours been unwelcome.

Crops came through the winter surprisingly well, say farmers weeklys regional representatives. Indeed in the south-west Richard Paynes Brigadier wheat is too forward for comfort. "It is quite leggy." Disease could be a bigger problem than normal, he believes. But Gaelic winter barley, intentionally sown later than last seasons crop, has its plant population about right.

Justin Blackwoods 121ha (300 acres) of Riband, Reaper and Soissons in the East Midlands, all of which received chicken manure, is growing apace. "It is a touch on the proud side, and will definitely be a high management/high input crop."

In Kent 40ha (100 acres) of Brigadier is expected to merit its first growth regulator mix of chlormequat and a touch of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) shortly, says Bill Harbour. "We shall probably starve it of N for a while."

Philip Godfrey, relieved to see rain on his Cambs unit, believes high nitrogen residues left after the dry winter are reflected in rapid greening of wheats in the past week. "Charger on our kinder land is extremely lush after peas."

Wheat after peas looks particularly well on Caley Sackurs Yorkshire farm. "I expect the soil N level could be perhaps 10 units/acre higher than normal," he says. "But to be honest that wont affect my usage." Second wheats are scheduled to receive 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) soon, but weed-killing, missed out last autumn, will probably take priority, he says.

Sugar beet has all gone from Lincomb Farms, Worcs, where brothers Andrew (left) and Tony had their best ever adjusted yield at 75t/ha.