30 March 2001



CROPS already in the ground should take priority over other fieldwork this spring, says Caroline Drummond of LEAF.

"Maximise the potential of winter crops before drilling spring crops," she advises. "At the moment, the ground is saturated, good seed-beds will be difficult to achieve and crops will be slow to establish."

Having assessed the current situation, growers should put top dressing and disease control at the top of the action list, she believes. "Weed control is not so urgent as many crops were drilled late, so the weed burden is lower than normal."

Once ground conditions allow travel, pay attention to application rates for fertilisers and fungicides. "The water table is very high, so run-off into watercourses is a potential problem," she warns. "Follow label information to avoid environmental damage."

Get out and walk crops with an agronomist to draw up action plans; one for crops in the ground and the other for crops still to be drilled, she continues. Taking stock now will enable workloads to be prioritised for this year and next.

Long-term contingency planning should include machinery choice and rotation. "Having machinery which allows groundwork to be completed whatever the conditions is important. So too is having a rotation which matches labour to need."

Above all, dont panic, she advises. "The growing season hasnt really started and there is still time to get things done. The foot-and-mouth outbreak will affect fieldwork, but good planning can limit unnecessary movement to and from farms."

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