Late Spring Drilling
Reasons to be optimistic

Although there's a lot of doom and gloom around the spring drilling season and the struggles many have had to get seed in the ground, and the ongoing challenges of the climate crisis, there may be some reasons to look on the bright side.

Yes, it's true that yields will be lower from later drilling, as there's a simple link between time spent growing and the final grain yield. The slower and more drawn out each developmental stage the greater the chance the crop can build yield. Growth and development is stimulated by temperature and day length amongst other things so crops emerging in April and early May will have higher temperatures and more daylight hours to hasten the rate of development to the detriment of yield. This is however the  same for everyone so all will have lower yields from their Spring crops, supply will be down and prices should rise as a result of this.

Quality can also be expected to have an uplift as crops struggle to  build yield there will  be less dilution of protein in spring wheat crops with  more hopefully hitting 12% protein and above, and premiums for some of the higher protein grain. Millers are keen on UK provenance, and if proteins are high, it could be a good year for the Organic bread wheat market.

Higher soil temperatures and long days will foster a high rate of growth in spring cereals that should  make them even more competitive against spring germinating weeds and with later drilling, the weed burden should be lower to begin with. With moist warm soils, microbial activity should be high and nutrients readily available which will will help crop establishment.

Late drilling in warm, moist soils may well be no worse than earlier  drilling into cold soils with a Spring drought as we saw in previous years, conditions post drilling can have as big an impact as date of drilling, so please don't despair if you're feeling anxious about the amount of spring drilling left to do, and remember, you're all in it together, as everyone struggles this Spring.

One piece of advice for those with drilling still to do.. seed rates should be increased accordingly, but be careful not to go too high if you're growing milling/malting crops as quality may suffer a little from the increasing crop competition. At time of writing I would suggest 550-600 seeds/m2.

Another systems benefit to the warm wet winter, and sodden spring is the positive effect on grass and short term leys that have produced a lot of biomass, with benefits for both soil health and nitrogen fixation, leading to a positive legacy for subsequent crops. Under-sowing cereals could also be particularly effective this season.

We can't shy away from the fact that it looks increasingly favourable to hedge bets towards autumn sowing to de-risk against climate extremes, and perhaps it may be time to challenge the status quo of October drilling, with the risks of September drilled crops in Organic systems perhaps over-stated, and the vulnerability of spring drilling highlighted this season, and last. As long as seed is available at the right time, and if the opportunity is there, I see very little downside in drilling from mid-September. On the point of seed availability. It may be time for Organic farmers to consider forward buying winter seed for the following season a year in advance, as long as it can be stored well, it should over-winter ok and the stress and missed opportunities of late seed delivery can be overcome. On this seed ordering a year in advance, only one season would you need to order double, as each subsequent season, you'd be ordering one year ahead. Our deal with Walnes seeds last year enabled for early delivery of Mascani seed through a bulk order that gave them the volumes to justify earlier processing. These sort of initiatives are of great value and is an opportunity created by being part of the Organic Arable community.