Crops flourish despite weather

Wheat and barley crops in Scotland are looking remarkably well despite the battering they have taken in recent weeks, according to SAC principal crop consultant Keith Dawson.

“I have been all around Scotland in the past few days and have been surprised at how well crops are filling,” Dr Dawson told an SAC crop trials open day at West Fingask, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.

“Predictions of an early harvest are misplaced but if we get good weather between now and harvest, I see no reason why we should not have a good harvest. I don’t expect a repeat of the disastrous harvest of 1985.”

Dr Dawson said spring-sown barleys had not suffered as much as winter barleys during the dry April and he was surprised at the lack of lodging in wheats.

But secondary growth was likely to prove a problem in some crops and he advocated the use of desiccants to control late-ear emergence and even out ripening.

“A lot more use will be made of pre-harvest desiccants which, importantly given the high fuel cost, will help reduce drying costs,” said Dr Dawson.

Yellow rust had appeared in wheats in Scotland for the first time since Slejpner was attacked 15 years ago, and had been particularly severe in Robigus.

“It is being kept in check by the application of the right disease control programme at the right time. But the effect is devastating on crops that have not been sprayed on time,” said Dr Dawson.

Urging growers to “keep their eyes on the ball” and not get carried away by higher prices, Dr Dawson said he was optimistic about the future for the arable sector. Grain prices were likely to remain high because world stocks were low and competition from the emerging biofuels industry.

“But growers must not forget the hard-earned lessons of the past few years in maintaining high standards of crop husbandry,” he said. “It is important that income from higher prices is added to the bottom line to restore profit and provide investment for the future.”