Scotland’s Growers Stuttering Through the Stop Start Spring

Scotland’s growers are struggling through a stop/start spring. Last week’s sunshine saw full speed ahead with ploughing and planting but more rain in the forecast will put a dampener on progress.

Many farmers failed to plant their planned areas of winter crops last year due to the poor weather and with spring only just arriving in recent weeks, growers are realistic about the yields of grain and straw from crops planted this late in the year.

Ian Sands, Chair of NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops committee who farms at Townhead, Balbeggie, in Perthshire said: “Personally, I can't remember starting spring sowing so late.  We drilled 170 acres last week on the lightest land, but we had to stop to let more land dry out.

“Spring sowing is well behind in most parts of Scotland - up to 3 weeks in our area.  There are still fields to plough that have been too wet after potatoes.   The seed drills started again last week, in far from ideal conditions, but time is moving on.   It is now late enough to know there will be an impact on spring barley yields and farms with heavy clay land will still have a long wait for it to be dry enough. Will they will bother trying to sow?

 “On a whole, the winter crops that people got sown are looking okay if a bit backwards in growth stage for this time of year. However, many did not get the winter crops in that they wanted.  It has also been difficult to get fertiliser on due to it being too soft to put tractors on the land.”

Pete Grewar of Grewar Farming, farming in Perthshire, Black Isle and Easter Ross said: “Winter sown crops are looking relatively well – if you choose to ignore what the date in the diary is!  

“I did get all winter crops sown but spring barley is at least two to three weeks late in getting sown in the Black Isle and Easter Ross, but it is drawing to a close.  However, spring barley is at least three weeks late in Tayside – with 50 percent still to go in – and tattie planting is just starting now, the latest start in Tayside for 20 years.

“With planting running late, there are just enough weather windows to get on with fertiliser and spraying but there is no shortage of jobs needing done.”

Cameron MacIver, Wester Coltfield, Kinloss said: “Here in Morayshire, we have probably luckier than further east or north.

“On the heavier land, winter wheat and winter barley have, in places, been waterlogged and drowned causing problems getting fertiliser and fungicides on.

“The recent improvement in weather has seen a lot of ploughing and spring barley sowing.  We are probably three weeks behind and there is still a lot to be done. That means there could be problems complying with Greening’s three crop rule because of the late spring.

Iain Wilson of Tulloch Farms, Laurencekirk
and Chair of the SAYFC Agri-Affairs Group said: “In the Howe of the Mearns, Winter crops have certainly greened up but only really started growing last week.

“Last winter, I was slightly short on the amount of oilseed rape I got planted but I got the rest of the planned winter cereals in. However, they went in much later than planned so needed higher seed rates.  Slugs were also a real issue last winter, particularly once it got too wet to travel to apply pellets.

“Spring sowing only started last week – exactly a week later than the date on which we finished sowing in 2017!

“The weather over the next week or 10 days will dictate if our cropping plan can stay as planned or if spring oats will end up having to be sown on the lightest land to allow us to get them sown in April.  There is not the same rush for spring barley.

“We are well behind on applying fertiliser and some sprays have been missed out altogether. Oats and winter wheat both missed the pass at growth stage ‘T0’ as well as some of the later winter barley.  Now that travel with the sprayer is finally possible, we will just risk hanging off until T1.”  

Also at Laurencekirk, Andrew Moir of Thornton Mains said: “Winter crops in the main are good with only the oats, which has suffered from “frost heave”, giving cause for concern as yields will be compromised.

“I did get all winter crops in, bar 2 hectares, and I am nearly completed spring sowing.  However, lots of farmers are barely started in my immediate area and have serious acreages to sow due to not getting winter crops in.

“We have been keeping up pretty well with fertiliser and spraying but some atrocious tramlines are appearing.

“Realistically, yields will be down come harvest – we can’t be sowing this late in the spring and not have repercussions down the line for grain yields and straw. I have always been taught that the 10th to 15th April is optimum time for spring barley in Aberdeenshire so it is not disastrous if it all happens now but the forecast for us this week is back to rain.”  

In the Borders, Neil White at Greenlaw, Duns said: “Sowing begun last week but the heavier land lower down still has a lot of moisture just below the surface and seedbeds are varied.

“Some people are trying to hold off until ground dries a bit more, but things are already behind ideal timings.  Lighter ground is breaking down nicely and crops seem to be going in well.

“Winter crops look okay, if a little behind the usual growth stages for this time of year, and they are clean.  That said, some rape is still being very badly hit by pigeons. “There are some in the area who have been forced to have more spring crop than usual and are pushing to get on taking a ‘majority of the field is fit’ approach. “Fertiliser is mostly up to date, but tramlines are deep and very wet. Spraying is behind schedule and has been challenging with the good, drying wind stopping most sprayers.”    


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 57/18

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