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North-east arable farmers complete spring sowing

By David Porter

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Cold, dry conditions have produced excellent conditions for sowing spring crops and planting potatoes.

However, some warmth and decent rain are now needed to kick start growth.

Reports from around the country suggest that the wet winter has been hard on those crops sown in Autumn 2020, but that they have come through that and still look to have potential.

On the market, difficult growing conditions across Europe are driving up prices with weather conditions looking as though they will affect yields.

There is also some optimism about how the sector has and will continue to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking forwards, NFU Scotland’s combinable crops chairman Willie Thomson said: “With the new presidential team in place, and the Scottish election not far away, the committee will be taking a fresh look at the cropping sector in May to identify our priorities.

“Climate change is going to be a policy priority for the next government – irrespective of the political party elected – and so for farmers too.

"The cropping sector has been on the front foot in terms of shaping climate change policy.

“A farmer-led arable sector climate change group, established by the Scottish Government, has already published its report to guide politicians, policy-makers and the industry as we ensure future agricultural policy for the sector is fit for purpose.

“NFU Scotland’s combinable crops committee was well-represented on the group, which has identified positive measures that arable farmers can take to mitigate climate change and the next steps that Scottish Government should take to make these happen.

“The Union will be working with our members and policymakers to get the right actions in place to tackle the climate emergency in a way that works for members’ businesses”.

Andrew Moir from Thornton near Laurencekirk commented: "Our spring crop was all sown in the third week of March into near perfect seedbeds.

"We then had 15 consecutive nights of quite hard frosts, with a wind chill of -10 degrees C which prevented any thoughts the newly sown crops would emerge quickly – quite the contrary as emergence took upwards of three weeks.

"These cold winds have been hard on all winter crops, particularity OSR, where flower heads were just emerging.

"All winter cereal crops have seen severe burning of upper leaves and have had the best natural growth regulation that you do not have to buy.

"Wheat sown after potatoes took a very big hit as incessant rain in the backend of 2020 drowned out some very large patches, and the cold winds and now lack of moisture has meant that tillering has been compromised.

"Anything sown early in the Autumn is tipped but has some potential if we get some rainfall soon - only 5mm since sowing spring barley has been recorded here in the past month.

"The marketplace is reacting very quickly in an upward direction as dryness in Northern Europe continues, and the heavy frosts affected yields. In one day, London wheat futures moved up by £6.30 per tonne!

"I believe that we will see a bounce back from the brewing industry as restrictions lift. We remain not too badly affected by Brexit, however some friction is bound to take place on exports going forward."

Jack Stevenson, Brangan at Boyndie near Banff said: "Our spring planting is nearly all complete into very dry soil conditions.

"Early sown spring barley is emerging well and is badly needing rain - especially in coastal areas.

"Nearly two weeks of very cold wind, sleet, and snow has left many winter barleys and wheat with a lot of leaf damage - these crops are slowly showing signs of fresh growth as temperatures rise.

"Farmers with grain to trade on the futures market will be glad to take advantage of the rise this past week.

"Whether this will continue till harvest is anyone's guess."

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