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Prospects look good for 2014 cereals harvest

After the disappointing harvest of 2013 and widespread regional flooding, there is finally some positive news for British farmers.

wheat field

The prospects for this year’s harvest are good

After the disappointing harvest of 2013 and widespread regional flooding, there is finally some positive news for British farmers. The prospects for this year’s harvest are good, according to national agricultural and environmental consultancy, ADAS, which has today released its data analysis report on crop establishment conditions for 2012/13 and 2013/14.

ADAS’ figures show the comparable environmental factors that characterise two very different years. The figures show a similar level of rainfall but demonstrate the very different timing of it which has been the crucial factor. They also show the much milder temperatures of recent months and the combined data informs us how a larger national hectareage of winter crops has been established and why improved yields are forecast this year.

The autumn of 2013 saw a timely end to harvest, followed by dry weather and good soil conditions during much of September and early October 2013. This meant that most planned winter crops were drilled within the ideal window, while soil temperatures were still warm, and the total area sown returned to more normal levels.

Establishment of early drilled crops was at average levels, but with adequate plant numbers and strong growth early in the season, these crops were better established than in the previous year. Because of this, they coped well with the high rainfall that followed in spite of localised ponding and some larger scale flooding in areas of the UK.

And while there has been a significant area of flooded land, most tends to be in the west of the country where there is more grassland, and, overall represents a very small proportion of agricultural land. It is not clear at this stage the exact extent of the areas involved in recent floods, but comparable figures for the summer floods of 2007 suggest that in fact less than 0.75% of the wheat area was affected in that year.

In addition, quick establishment, good plant populations and early growth in the autumn of 2013 made crops less vulnerable to pigeon grazing over winter. ADAS consultant and author of the report Susan Twining does, however, urge caution.

“These comparatively healthy crops need to be protected against season-specific threats. The heavy rainfall in the early months of 2014 have led to lower than normal soil mineral nitrogen levels and spring-drilled crops may be vulnerable to this. In addition, mild air temperatures are a key risk for the spread of rusts in wheat and high plant populations and early development are also both key risks for lodging, making spring growth regulators a priority for a number of crops.

“The final ingredient required for a bumper harvest is sunshine, which is out of our control, but if we have a high level of sunlight there is every reason to hope for a very good year indeed.”


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