West: Wet weather continues to have its say in 2012

Since last writing the rain has continued to fall, and is continuing to cause problems for growers across the region. A slightly less wet spell towards the end of October allowed some to progress with drilling but recent rains have returned most fields to “saturated” status. Drilling of winter crops is probably somewhere between 50% and 75% complete.

Drillings have not been helped by erratic, erroneous and rapidly changing weather forcasting. The Met Office continue to claim a high degree of accuracy with their forcasts. My question to them would be which ones? On numerous occassions we have been given a  forcast of dry 24 hours ahead which 6 hours ahead has changed to rain. This at best only gives a 50% accuracy, but I suspect from the Met Office’s point of view that the 6 hour forcast will count as being accurate as it was the last one given for the time frame in question.

Farmers on the other hand require more accurate forcasting further ahead than this and have been badly let down in this respect. The other noticeable trend this year has been for the various forcasting organisations to give completely different forcasts to each other. How can this be when they are making these forcasts using the same data set? Is it incompetence or commercial expediency?

I will now get down off my soap box and report on the crops, such as they are. Early drilled rape crops are now looking well established and have now recieved a graminicide and Phoma fungicide. Later drilled crops are quite variable. Some are not going to make it due to a combination of factors, including slugs and waterlogging. Others have established reasonably well against the odds but due to their very small plant size are going to require constant monitoring through the winter months for slug, pigeon and disease activity.

Winter wheat and barley crops are establishing slowly and are patchy in many fields, again due to waterlogging and slug damage. Compaction issues caused by the wet harvest period are now becoming very evident. Many crops that were due to have a pre-emergence herbicide have not recieved this treatment over concerns of possible poor establishment and herbicide scorch caused by excessive rain after application. This should not pose too much of a problem for the wheat crop as we still have a useful armoury of products for post-emergence application, but the barley crop is a different proposition. Grass weed issues should be addressed very early post-emegence if the pre-em has been missed

The maize crop is coming off between the showers. As expected yields are well down and there is a lot of mess left behind in fields and on the roads. Contractors on the whole are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, particularly in respect of clearing up the mud taken out onto roads during the harvesting process. Many maize stubbles are due to be planted to wheat this autumn. If this is to happen we are going to need a significant dry spell in order to achieve anything approaching a reasonable seedbed for the wheat.

If much of the wheat remains unplanted there will be an increased demand for spring barley seed in a year when spring barley seed is in the shortest supply I can remember. The fallout from 2012 is set to continue.

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