A brighter outlook for Philip Bradshaw’s sugar beet

I may have been a little optimistic last month on how well the sugar beet had started off. While initial germination and growth was good, about a third of the area stood still until the recent warmer weather.

A combination of cold temperatures, grazing from pigeons and other pests, and the earlier relentless rain had held it back. Happily, a prompt visit from Daniel Godsmark, our local British Sugar fieldsman, confirmed that the population of plants was actually quite good, and some careful application of nutrient sprays since then has seen the crop start to grow rapidly again.

Crops look a lot better here in general since the rain, although some more decent sunshine would certainly help them along. The wheat had taken slightly longer to get to the flag leaf fungicide timing than I expected, but the T2 fungicides are now largely applied, using SDHI chemistry at sensible, robust, doses, with a top up of growth regulator where necessary.

Potato planting is progressing better now, and our modest area of Maris Piper is going in quite well. While the potato crop generally will grow quickly, there must be a yield reduction nationally due to the late planting, which will hopefully show a major lift in prices for next year!

I was relieved to finally receive my single payment a few days ago. It has been frustrating, as the whole issue for me seems to have been held up by a small historic entitlement transfer error which threw my entitlements calculation out. In fact at one point, my 2011 and recently submitted 2012 claim were both at the same stage, according to the online claim tracker.

Happily, thanks to continued efforts from my case worker, and support from Richard Wordsworth at the NFU, and David Morgan from the Beds and Cambs Rural Support Group, the problems were solved, and payment finally came through. I hope all others that were waiting have now been paid as well.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.

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