Mild winter brings mixed blessings

The continuing mild, dry winter over much of the country has been a mixed blessing for growers.

Yields are forcast to be fine but the low level of rainfall is a major concern in some regions - image: Lee Hayward
Yields are forcast to be fine but the low level of rainfall is a major concern in some regions - image: Lee Hayward

Plantsystems vegetable agronomist Colin Noble said: "The biggest challenge for areas such as East Anglia is lack of rain. Usually you fill your reservoir in winter, but some growers will have to pump for a month to fill their reservoirs and abstraction licences finish in April."

On the other hand, Scotland has had "terrible" weather, he added. "It will mean smaller crops even if they aren't damaged."

The mild weather also gives rise to disease worries, said Noble. "We can expect some deterioration in stored crops of carrots and parsnips - cavity spot and Sclerotinia will be a concern."

Consultant Will Archer said: "Salad onions are forward, so will be harvested two weeks earlier than planned, meaning a likely gap between winterand spring-sown crops. The leaf tissue is soft and the Botrytis risk is higher than normal, but yields should be fine."

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow also expressed concern over disease risk. "Some pests that are normally killed off by the cold can overwinter if the weather is mild," he said.

"Growers should exercise good horticultural practice such as clearing up fallen leaves and noting any early emergence of pest and disease symptoms."

Carrot growers would prefer a frosty winter

"We are geared up for frosty weather because we use straw to protect the carrot crop. Poor weather takes away the competing crops such as brassicas, but now they are doing well. So we would prefer to have a proper winter. At least it has been dry, which means disease is less of an issue."

Martin Evans, chairman, British Carrot Growers' Association

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