Farmer Diaries (UK): Heavy UK Rainfall Boosts Soil Moisture

Insight Focus

  • Drought for UK winter crops unlikely.
  • But cool and wet weather increases disease risk.
  • All crops now planted except 4ha of sunflower.


What’s Happening on the Farm?

Since I last wrote, the windows have been cleaned so that I could see the continual rainfall pattern. 8 km away they had 91 mm of rain in one storm, that’s double monthly rainfall. Soil moisture is at a historic high, which suggests drought for the winter crops is now unlikely.

Temperatures turned colder than normal.

The farm closed, as most of the world, for May Day and then we had another day off to see our new king being crowned or “chlorinated” as one small child described to me. It was completely bonkers but I am glad that we retain a monarchy – I argue that it gives depth to this country.


Apart from 4 ha of sunflowers, we are all planted.

Crop Stage

Oil seed rape is now slowing turning from yellow to green, but happy bees have been working hard. Disease remains a risk, post flowering fungicides to be applied as I write and then we wait for the oil content to increase.


Wheat and rye are typically at GS39ish with ear emergence any day. I have read that harvest will be delayed because of the cooler temperatures, I think this will be unlikely. We have been studying nitrogen uptake this year, the irony of this is that this work (being undertaken by ADAS) is being funded by the EU. For what it is worth, I think we are going to see a wheat crop with lower than normal protein in a year where there is already a shortage of bread making wheat. One other observation I’ve made this year is that the wheat crop is too high for Cecelia to just run through it, she has to jump. Whippets are not made for jumping.


Sugar beet is all planted, on average of 2 ½ weeks late and is now around 2-4 true leaves. According to BBRO, who are running a demonstration site on our farm this year, aphid numbers are currently low but they expect this to change in the near future as temperatures rise significantly. They point out that there is a high risk of infection to circa 40% of the UK crop, which is unprotected with neo-nics. I continue this worry with an expected higher risk of Cercospora, than normal, due to predicted higher humidity levels this year. The sugar is not in the silo yet.


Big Concerns

I’m pleased to report that the UK government has held a conference in No 10 Downing Street, to discuss UK agriculture. Everything is going according to plan, apparently and all will be well. English agriculture continues to head towards recession as our politicians rearrange the “deck chairs on the Titanic”.

Ambitions for the Year

We continue to work on understanding price for our crops, I don’t understand why so few people that I meet wish to discuss this subject. Adding to that work has started, mentioned above, on improving yield for the crops we grow. We have been working on a weather project for over 8 years that is now starting to show some results, even though it encouraged me to predict a drought this year (he says as he looks at another gathering rain cloud).

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