Mixed picture for Scotland's growers this spring
A snapshot survey of NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops committee members along with those farmers on its potatoes, soft fruit and vegetables working groups has shown a real divide across the country created by the weather.
In the north, the process of ploughing and planting spring crops is well advanced with many recently sown crops already emerging from the ground. Compare that with reports from Perthshire, Stirlingshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway where wet weather has brought ploughing and planting to a standstill and many growers now well behind their normal schedule.
The good news from across Scotland is that the fair weather last autumn, and the chance to get winter crops established in good conditions has left winter wheat and barley crops around the country looking well.
NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman, Andrew Moir said: “This is the time of year where, weather permitting, Scotland’s growers are looking to kick on with ploughing and planting and caring for the crops that went in last autumn.
“A quick update from our members and it is clear that fortunes are very mixed. Enviable progress has been made in much of Aberdeenshire and Easter Ross but there are clear problems in many other parts of the country where wet weather is holding farmers back.
“Given that the forecast remains unsettled, the amount of ploughing and sowing left to be done means that many farmers are now behind schedule and frustration levels will be rising
“Although too early to give thought to harvest prospects for the year, it is very pleasing that, compared to 12 months ago, wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape crops are looking well.”
Arable, potato, vegetable and soft fruit growers around Scotland have provided the following reports on progress with crops this spring.
Jim Whiteford, Shandwick Mains, Tain, Ross-shire
Spring barley in Easter Ross is pretty well sown up. In fact a lot of it including my 450 acres are through and looking well. We had good rainfall at the week end and just need the heat now. Oilseed rape (OSR) is looking good with 10 percent flowering on the earliest crops. Winter wheat and winter barley are looking the best in a long, long time with zero wet holes in fields. Tatties are hitting the ground at a great rate in to good conditions. I am pinching myself in case all goes pear shape!
Ian Sands, Townhead Farm, Balbeggie, Perth
In the Perth area, very little has been sown and not much progress - if any - going to be made this week. Ground conditions are now very wet from heavy rain over the last four days. All in all, a bit depressing and frustrating.
Neil McCrae, Mains of Dudwick, Ellon, Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire is, in general, well ahead. Most are finished their spring sowing in good conditions and some crops are already emerging in Tarves and Oldmeldrum area. Winter crops are also looking good.
George Lawrie, Grianan, Milnathort, Fife
In the office looking out at the rain. Here in Kinross, just about all winter ploughing is done and many are waiting for the weather to pick up to get some sowing done. There is about 10 percent of spring crop in the ground, mainly beans and the lighter land sown in spring barley. Winter crops are looking well and all had their first nitrogen, with some spraying been carried out. Things need to dry out now if we are to get the full potential out of these crops and get a reasonable yield from the spring crops. The good news is things in the east are forecast to dry up from midweek, so might get something done by the weekend! Here’s hoping for a busy April.
Andrew Glover, Hall of Barnweil, Craigie, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire
In Ayrshire, fields are sodden and the situation is dire. Only 10 percent of our arable ground is ploughed, if that, and less than 5 percent are sown. We were lucky to get three dry days in a row a couple of weeks ago and managed to top dress winter crops. Winter crop fields look ok but some are patchy where the land is slightly heavier and water has been lying in the fields all winter. Outlook is not good weather-wise for this week – heavy rain followed by more sunshine and showers. I have one field sown but was not ideal condition, and there won’t be much done this week. What chance have we got of growing three crops when we struggle in the spring to grow any crop and we have struggled in the autumn to grow winter crops? Not easy farming in Ayrshire.
Timothy Hamilton, Killumpha, Port Logan, Stranraer, Wigtownshire
Spring work is progressing very slowly in the Mull of Galloway. Ploughing is slowly progressing but not much drilling has been done. The ground is very wet again. Winter cereals are looking a bit patchy with the wet winter and high winds, although winter crops are growing in the mild temperature. We are needing a dry week to get on with planting spring crops.
Peter Thomson, Blairgowrie
Touch wood it has been a pretty normal spring so far, with no problems reported by fruit growers.
Neil White, Greenknowe, Duns, Berwickshire
It is a very mixed bag for growers in Berwickshire. Some crops are emerging well, especially on light ground, but some are sown and now sitting in a very sodden cold seedbed and a portion of seed is still in the bag. Water is beginning to lie on flatter ground which is a worry. Large variation in stages of fertiliser usage. Some people have very little applied and some are well through spreading on more advanced crops. Winter crops still look well although beginning to look for more nutrients and heat.
David Bryce, West Cambusdrennie, Stirling
To say things are not great in the Stirling area would be an understatement. The Carse is far from being fir for drilling with water lying in some fields. Haven't seen any drills out either on the dry land in the area. Also struggling to get fertiliser onto winter crops as the ground would not take a tractor although the crops do look well with great potential if the weather plays ball. The next three weeks are pivotal to the rest of the year.
Colin Dargie, East of Scotland Farmers, Coupar Angus, Perthshire
Drilling is probably 50 to 60 percent complete in our trading area of West Perthshire to the Angus coast with most progress furthest east. Many farms east of Forfar are finished drilling, some west of Coupar Angus still to make a start. Most light land and later ploughed land now complete with many farmers “looking for a dry field to go to now”. The early ploughed and heavier land will need more drying weather before it is fit. Interestingly, one grower I spoke to yesterday started drilling in 2013 on the 7th April – a “late start” due to the snow cover. Today is 7th April, he hasn’t turned a wheel to date and is unlikely to start before middle of this week given the forecast.
Douglas Morrison, Amisfield Mains, Haddington, East Lothian
East Lothian is a mixed bag, most of the coastal strip and lighter land destined for spring barley is drilled up and went in well, but a lot of the more upland or heavier land remains wet, and after today’s rain is now very wet! Some fields have been drilled while not yet fit, but we all know how hard it is to stop when the forecast says more rain. Pressure has been on to get winter OSR fertiliser applications finished as the rape is now getting too tall for effective spread width from spinners. The saving grace is that there is a huge area of winter crops sown which all look well, so the spring drilling area is just a fraction of last year’s total.
Russell Brown, Inverdovat, Newport-on-Tay, Fife
In the east, potato plantings have begun but it is only on the lightest soils. In general, people are waiting for things to dry up and warm up. Slow-ish progress means that tattie plantings in Scotland are behind compared to the UK as a whole.
James Grant, Roskill House, Munlochy, Ross-shire
Potato planting is underway in the region and progress is keeping up with our normal planting schedule.
Ian Morrison, Kettle Produce, Balmacolm, Fife
The very wet January and February delayed the drilling of early carrots and parsnips in both Ayrshire and Fife. Fortunately there was a very welcome dry spell at the beginning of March and growers managed to catch up with drilling although covering the crops with fleece and polythene was delayed due to the very high winds in the first 10 days of March. Planting programmes of salads, spring greens and cabbage start at the beginning of March and to date these have been planted more or less on schedule. Drilling of main season carrot and parsnip crops will start as soon as the weather dries up a bit – hopefully by the end of this week!
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