Sugar beet acreage rises for Philip Bradshaw

The seemingly endless wheat bulb fly saga has caused problems here this spring. Happily, my larger-than-usual wheat crop, drilled late after sugar beet, has weathered the attack pretty well. Although the weather has been dry, it looks promising.

However, I did sadly have to pull up one small field of November-drilled wheat following potatoes. While this is unlikely to excite the world grain market and is a relatively trivial problem in the big picture, it is irritating.

After establishing it was best to re-drill the land, the next crop had to be decided. Ironically, we have gone for sugar beet. It seems amazing that after the general frustration with the crop last winter and having steadily reduced my area in recent years I am back to around my normal acreage.

With some spare seed in stock and the agreement from British Sugar to pay for all beet delivered under the 2011-12 contract at the quota price of £23.60 an adjusted tonne, extra beet became a feasible plan. I am happy that the offending disastrous wheat crop has gone. As usual, when something goes wrong, it always seems to be a field everyone sees on the way to our farm.

Other crops are looking reasonably good, but the early spring drought is concerning. We have done a slightly reduced second nitrogen application on wheat and oilseed rape crops and some appropriate T0 fungicide and growth regulator treatments on most wheat.

The difficulty is what to do about future treatments on crops that must now be losing significant potential on some sites. We will, as usual, tailor our fungicide programme according to disease pressure both present and forecast. But the difficult decision will be what to do about the remaining nitrogen application in the absence of significant rainfall – and without a crystal ball.


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