Scotland’s Arable Farmers Complete Spring Sowing

Some areas looking for rain to kickstart growth

Scotland’s arable sector has successfully concluded spring sowing.

Cold, dry conditions have produced excellent conditions for sowing spring crops and planting potatoes. However, some warmth and decent rain are now needed to kick start growth.  

Reports from around the country suggest that the wet winter has been hard on those crops sown in Autumn 2020, but that they have come through that and still look to have potential.

On the market, difficult growing conditions across Europe are driving up prices with weather conditions looking as though they will affect yields. There is also some optimism about how the sector has and will continue to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking forwards, NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman Willie Thomson, who farms at Wheatrig near Haddington said: “With the new presidential team in place, and the Scottish election not far away, the committee will be taking a fresh look at the cropping sector in May to identify our priorities.

“Climate change is going to be a policy priority for the next government – irrespective of the political party elected – and so for farmers too. The cropping sector has been on the front foot in terms of shaping climate change policy.

“A farmer-led arable sector climate change group, established by the Scottish Government, has already published its report to guide politicians, policy-makers and the industry as we ensure future agricultural policy for the sector is fit for purpose.  

“NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee was well-represented on the group, which has identified positive measures that arable farmers can take to mitigate climate change and the next steps that Scottish Government should take to make these happen.

“The Union will be working with our members and policymakers to get the right actions in place to tackle the climate emergency in a way that works for members’ businesses”.  

Crop updates from around Scotland
(A photograph of spring sowing in Berwickshire is attached)

Willie Thomson, Wheatrig, Haddington, East Lothian
Spring sowing has been concluded in East Lothian for a couple of weeks with most crops being planted in good condition, but later ploughed ground is in need of some decent moisture to even up germination. Winter sown cereals are looking full of potential, especially the early sown ones. Oilseed rape is just about to come into flower after a cold spell. OSR also needs rain to help fill out the crops and make the most of the unprecedented prices we are seeing for the crop.

Grain and oilseed prices are looking good this season, but input prices are getting higher. As ever, it is the margin not the market, and the timing around marketing grain and buying inputs can have a big effect on profit at the end of the year.

Globally, difficult growing conditions from poor weather are looking like they will affect yields and are driving up price. But the weather is not perfect in Scotland! A dry spring seems to be the new normal here, but fingers are crossed for better conditions in the summer, and that rarest of things – decent yields at decent prices.

This comes with the health warning that prices could drop as quickly as they have risen if global conditions improve!

Andrew Moir, Thornton, Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire
Spring crop was all sown in the third week of March into near perfect seedbeds. We then had 15 consecutive nights of quite hard frosts, with a wind chill of -10 degrees C which prevented any thoughts the newly sown crops would emerge quickly – quite the contrary as emergence took upwards of three weeks!

These cold winds have been hard on all winter crops, particularity OSR, where flower heads were just emerging. All winter cereal crops have seen severe burning of upper leaves and have had the best natural growth regulation that you do not have to buy!

Wheat sown after potatoes took a very big hit as incessant rain in the backend of 2020 drowned out some very large patches, and the cold winds and now lack of moisture has meant that tillering has been compromised.

Anything sown early in the Autumn is tipped but has some potential if we get some rainfall soon - only 5mm since sowing spring barley has been recorded here in the past month.

The marketplace is reacting very quickly in an upward direction as dryness in Northern Europe continues, and the heavy frosts affected yields. In one day, London wheat futures moved up by £6.30 per tonne!

I believe that we will see a bounce back from the brewing industry as restrictions lift. We remain not too badly affected by Brexit, however some friction is bound to take place on exports going forward.

Neil White, Greenknowe Farm, Berwickshire
Spring sowing has gone very well in this area with good seed beds after the winter.  The crops are emerging well in spite of the frequent frosty mornings.

Winter crops still look good in the area, if a little lacking in colour, after a very wet winter and now a dry, cold spring. Crops are at varying growth stages but on the whole look good, though shorter and a little thinner than usual, unlike the rest of us!

I do not think there have been too many negative effects from Covid or Brexit as yet on the prices of the products we sell, but the prices and availability of new and used machinery have become noticeably difficult to accommodate. I notice that even products made in the UK that require parts from overseas still have a considerable waiting time. We still await the fertiliser prices for next season which could eat into margins.

I think we must remember that farming and the rural environment we live and work in has been very fortunate, during Covid, as it has been mostly shielded from the worst of the effects.

Jack Stevenson, Brangan, Boyndie, Banff
Spring planting is nearly all complete into very dry soil conditions. Early sown spring barley is emerging well and is badly needing rain - especially in coastal areas.

Nearly two weeks of very cold wind, sleet, and snow has left many winter barleys and wheat with a lot of leaf damage - these crops are slowly showing signs of fresh growth as temperatures rise.

Farmers with grain to trade on the futures market will be glad to take advantage of the rise this past week. Whether this will continue till harvest is anyone's guess.


Contact Ruth Oxborrow on 07823 556253

Author: Ruth Oxborrow

Date Published:

News Article No.: 68/21

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