North: Is this the norm or just a blip?

No matter how astute the growers, how skilled the farm operators or how smart the agronomists are, Mother Nature always has the final say. Never has this been more apparent than this season. As has been mentioned by all contributors this has been true the length and breadth of the country. Although there have been localised variations we have all suffered, at one time or another, from too much moisture and not enough sunshine.


Inevitably crops have suffered. There are countless tales varying from disaster to not too bad. Many six row winter barleys have incurred penal deductions for low bushel weights. How is it that we never get a bonus for delivering a sample above the contract specification? Cue a squadron of pigs!!

After last season’s great run of oilseed rape, our hopes were cruelly dashed. The extended flowering resulted in most of what little solar energy there was being reflected back and the late set pods tended to be much shorter than average.

The later maturity of some of the current crop of spring barley varieties have had their comeuppance this season and skinning has been a major issue. As a result the old stager, Optic, came into its own despite being low down on the Recommended List. Mind you, the lists for all crops and varieties have been turned on their head this season. Which begs the question; “Is this a blip or are we going to have to come to terms with this type of season as the norm?”


Winter wheats on the whole seem to have been not too bad. Perhaps we have been so disappointed by the results of all our other crops that by the time we got to the wheat we had become anaesthetized to a less than average performance.


Potatoes have been challenging. We know that they are a “sun” crop and this has been ably demonstrated this season. Growth cracks and smalls abound and no doubt rots will appear in due course. The lifting programme will have to be carefully planned to avoid mixing samples from end rigs, wet hollows and tramlines with good stocks, which will be extremely valuable if stored well.


Seed-beds will have to be prepared with care. I guess some ploughs will be resurrected from the stack yard and soils will have to be well aerated. Slug control will be vital and seed rates adjusted for seed numbers not weight. And so the merry go round starts again.

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