North: If you stood still, you’d sink

After a disastrous week with 100mm rain I’d like to say that we’re at a standstill, but we’re not. If you stood still, you’d sink. Ground varies from saturated at best to under 1m of water, so no wheels are going to turn for a fortnight, even if the weather picks up. So far, I know of only six fields sown with wheat.

There are hundreds of acres in the Lancashire mosses with crops unharvested and flooded badly where river banks have broken. That’s all another story; shoddy repairs from the last breaches meaning that further flooding becomes inevitable. Those responsible should be held to account.


Oilseed rape sowings were equally a nightmare. Only half of growers got anything in and among those, plantings were down 30%. Probably another 30% of it will fail – or has gone underwater already. So the phrase is right; its grim up north.  Its fair to say that we are now awaiting a miracle.




Among the bit of oilseed rape that we have, only one or two pieces have got to the four-leaf stage and safe from slugs. Most of the rest is between cotyledons and two-leaves, so still vulnerable. Pellets have been applied but they are of little use when it rains incessantly. We took the decision on most farms not to bother with pre-em herbicides because of a high risk of failure. So far, that looks like a good decision.

The earlier sown crops have all received a post-em treatment of cypermethrin for flea beetle and cabbage root fly control, together with propaquizafop for volunteer cereal control.  Where a pre-em herbicide wasn’t used, metazachlor has been included post-emergence. If it dries up sufficiently, follow-up doses will be applied.

The nightmare of getting hold of wheat and barley seed now seems ridiculous.  If it doesn’t pick up quickly, it will be an expensive white elephant sat there till next autumn. Experience shows that it will nearly all keep a year – but rarely two.

Light land left untouched since harvest will be the first to sow as its not in bad condition. Heavy land is another story, after so much compaction from combines, balers, loaders and wagons. Planning for future years, its going to be more barleys in the rotation and less chasing straw. Buy a bigger combine with a better straw chopper and tell the baler man where to go.

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