Spring cropping choices

With the excessive amount of rainfall coinciding with crop failure, the winter drilling season for 2019 is one to forget for many. Unfavourable drilling conditions, flooded land, as well as very challenging lifting conditions for root crop growers have left many farmers across the UK looking at spring cropping options for 2020 harvest.

The AHDB Early Bird Survey released estimated figures that show the 2020 wheat area for the UK is down 17% from the 2019 drilled area reflecting the season’s difficult drilling conditions.  With farmers still trying to drill late varieties the drilled area could be increased by up to 7%.

The UK oilseed rape area has also taken a hit with the survey reporting that the area lost in the UK being close to 38Kha. The main reasons for this significant loss have been the abundance of Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle as a result of the banned Neonicotinoid seed treatments and poor establishment conditions across the country at drilling.

These factors have led to a greater number of farmers across the UK to assess spring cropping options. Whilst gross margins are a vital part of the spring crop decision, care needs to be taken to pick the correct options to suit the current rotation and meet operational demands.

These factors might be worth considering when choosing spring cropping options for 2020 harvest.

  1. The availability of contracts for sales of chosen spring crop, especially if looking to grow niche spring crops.
  2. Seed availability will be something to bear in mind due to the high demand this season.
  3. Problems with residual chemicals which may still be present if re-drilling after failed winter rape crops.
  4. The ability to control weed issues cheaply pre-drilling or within the growing crop. Spring cropping is a good way to control black grass in the rotation but care needs to be taken not to overspend on herbicides.
  5. The ability to achieve a suitable seed bed to allow for the best opportunity for quick establishment. Patience is key where wet ground conditions are still present.
  6. Due to the extreme amount of rain over the last few months, there is a likelihood that soil nutrients will have depleted through leaching and anaerobic conditions. Soil analysis tests are a good option to analyse what losses of nutrients been occurred and therefore how to approach nutrient management for the spring.
  7. New windows of opportunity; new niche crops are currently taking a hold in the market place such as soya and millet which are good low input break crops that can produce good gross margins grown in the right conditions.
  8. Net margin – is the projected gross margin from your spring cropping choice sufficient to cover associated fixed costs??