Crops need thorough soaking

A thoroughly good soaking may arrive too late to reverse damage to yield potential, North Norfolk farmers' leader Ross Haddow has warned.Mr Haddow, newly-elected branch chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said: "Whether it will become devastating will vary for crops.

A thoroughly good soaking may arrive too late to reverse damage to yield potential, North Norfolk farmers' leader Ross Haddow has warned.

Mr Haddow, newly-elected branch chairman of the National Farmers' Union, said: "Whether it will become devastating will vary for crops. Spring barley and winter barley yields are already being severely limited. Late-drilled wheat has already been limited, but I believe all wheat is being limited."

Crops of early-flowering peas are also being irrigated much earlier than usual to prevent drastic yield reductions, said Broadland farmer Richard Hirst, chairman of the Birds Eye Growers' Group.

"If we don't get any rain in the next 10 days, we are talking about a catastrophe, I think.


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"We're having to water peas now which we would not normally expect to do until towards the

end of May or beginning of

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June.

"I'm starting to get a little worried without being too doom and gloom because I'm not normally like that," said Mr Hirst, who is also national chairman of the NFU's horticulture board.

Mr Hirst, a former Norfolk NFU chairman who farms at Ormesby, said: "We could do with a good rain. It is as simple as that. Every other crop is exactly the same, but the peas are starting to suffer a bit."

Leading malting barley grower, Teddy Maufe, of Branthill, near Wells, said cooler temperatures and lack of sunshine on the coast had helped.

"We are now beginning to run on fresh air. The weather people said there is a chance of rain next week - we've got to hope."

Mr Haddow, who manages the Stody estate, near Melton Constable, for the MacNicol family, said: "For sugar beet, it is starting to become critical. It is too early to cry wolf but it is not too early to be very concerned.

"Given the members I represent, who are mainly barley and sugar beet, there is a very big concern out there." He has started to irrigate daffoldils but is holding off other crops at present.

Grain merchant Andrew Dewing, of Aylsham, said: "Some yield has gone. The winter barleys are probably the biggest issue of all because I think that the yield loss is greater.

"The crop has made a decision to go for one main shoot and survival. It is sitting there with all the nitrogen on the surface and not getting into the ground. And if it does rain, then all that nitrogen will go straight to the head, which means low yield and a high nitrogen year.

"On the price front, there has been movement, with November wheat futures touching £100 per tonne, before easing back slightly, which represents about £90 per tonne ex-farm at harvest, or a bit more than £100 per tonne for May 08," he added.

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