Scientists urge caution during rush to sow winter crops

ARABLE farmers’ forward planning is likely to be hit because of the harvest dragging on, say college experts.

High drying charges and damaged fields are not the only issues facing them, says the Scottish Agrcultural College’s (SAC) Mark Ballingall.

He said: “There is now more reliance on winter-sown crops so the knock-on effects of the wet harvest and autumn are greater”.

While many farmers would have drilled winter rape into reasonable seed beds, he said, the continuing rain which followed meant weed control was difficult.

“This is particularly significant with weeds like brome and black-grass. There are no products effective at a later stage,” said the crop and soil systems professional.

There are also warnings about clubroot in oilseed rape crops with growers urged to watch out for patches of stunted or purple-coloured plants.

The rain also affected slug control, while a delay in gathering in the potato harvest has a knock-on effect on the drilling of winter wheat which often follows it – which means an increased threat from wheat bulb fly.

SAC soil scientist Dr Bruce Ball urged caution during the rush to get plantings in to compacted soil.

He said: “It is important now to avoid further damage by working the soil when it is wet. Ploughing wet soil can destroy the soil structure, which is fundamental to providing good conditions for crop growth and controlling greenhouse gas emissions from the soil. The more compact and smeared the soil, the greater the likelihood of waterlogged crops”.