U.K. Wheat Crops Seen Behind Schedule as Pigeons Damage Rapeseed

Wheat crop development in the U.K., Europe’s third-biggest grower, is running behind the normal pace after wet, cold weather in recent months, while rapeseed fields are facing damage from pigeons, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board said.

Wheat crop quality is variable, with 5 percent of planted area in “very poor” condition, according to the report distributed today by the Kenilworth, England-based AHDB and compiled with consultant ADAS U.K. Only about 2 percent of wheat crops have developed into the stem elongation stage that would have been reached by 25 percent to 40 percent of plants in a normal year. The U.K. had its second-wettest year on record last year, according to the Met Office.

Twenty percent of planned winter rapeseed crops weren’t planted or failed during the winter because of soggy conditions, with another 10 percent still “of questionable viability,” according to today’s report. Crops are behind the normal growth pace, with plants developing buds or just starting to flower.

“The cold air and soil temperatures in early April slowed crop growth,” the AHDB said. Development “was already later than normal due to the generally later drilling and continually wet soils over winter.”

Drier conditions and higher temperatures during the second half of April allowed spring planting to accelerate, with 85 percent to 90 percent of crops sown by now, according to the report. Almost 10 percent of the total wheat area in the U.K. this year is spring wheat or winter varieties that were planted during spring. Scotland still has to plant about 25 percent of its spring barley area, the AHDB said.

Weeds, Slugs

Pest and disease levels for wheat crops are mostly low, the AHDB said. Rapeseed crops are at risk of diseases including phoma and light leaf spot as wet conditions prevented farmers from applying some fungicides. Weeds, slugs and pigeons also are threatening oilseed crops, according to the report.

“Pigeon numbers have continued to increase over the last month with grazing a widespread problem” for rapeseed, the AHDB said. “Even some of the larger early drilled crops are sustaining damage and some of the small crops have little green leaf area left.”

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