6 November 1998

Weather delays to hit yields in 99

DELAYED drilling and spraying is cutting cereal yield potential from north to south.

Agronomists are having to rewrite recommendations as growers struggle to get on to saturated soils.

Nationally, 60-70% of winter cereals are drilled, estimates John Garstang of ADAS Boxworth, Cambs. Early crops on light soils need spraying urgently. But on heavy land drilling of unsown crops must take priority over spraying, he advises.

Southern fieldwork looked unlikely earlier this week after 40mm (1.6in) of weekend rain. "Yield potential of 10-15% has already been lost, and at a time when it really cant be afforded," says Stephen Cook of Hampshire Arable Systems.

In Notts and Yorks smaller weeds mean cereals are only just ready for spraying, but oilseed rape treatment is more urgent, with phoma increasing rapidly and some very backward crops, notes ADASs Andrew Wells.

Allen Scobie of Scottish Agronomy says: "It is time to halt winter barley drilling, but November wheat can be very good. We are still advising growers to drill, but get the seed rate up. No less than 550 seeds/sq m."