Farmers have been unable to plant or sow their crops due to the recent rain and cold. The wet ground makes the land impassable. This leads to concerns for them, because new government regulations mean that most crops must be harvested before 1 October. That’s getting tight now.
“It’s getting really late now,” says Hendrik Jan ten Cate of the Land and Horticultural Organization of the Netherlands (LTO). The arable farmer from Poortvliet has not yet been able to sow or plant anything. The seed potatoes in his shed are now sprouting green-white shoots, but they can’t go into the ground yet.
Never been so late with sugar beets
“It’s too wet to start, everyone is waiting. They expect rain again for tonight,” says Ten Cate. In his 20-year career as a farmer, Ten Cate has never experienced that he did not have sugar beets in the ground at the end of April.
The rain and cold also endanger the crops that have already been sown. “There could be crust formation on the crops it contains. That makes emergence more difficult,” says arable farmer Johan Sanderse from Serooskerke to Omroep Zeeland. When crust forms, the wet soil dries up, preventing the plants from growing through the hard soil crust.
Tineke de Vries, arable farmer in Hallum and chairman of Arable Farming at LTO, also still has empty fields. “The weather, you don’t do much about that. That’s not the problem. The problem is with the policy on dates. That doesn’t work. That’s where the frustration lies.”
Since this year, the government has implemented a new policy when it comes to harvesting. With this action programme, the government wants to reduce water pollution caused by nitrates from agriculture and prevent further pollution. Certain crops must be harvested before specific dates. “October 1 is an important date, then you have to have harvested a lot of crops,” explains De Vries.
“The date of October 1 was chosen because it is known from scientific research that the earlier the catch crop is sown, the more effective it is for nitrogen capture. Sowing later every week ensures that the amount of nitrogen absorbed is almost halved,” says the government in the action programme.
Ten Cate is concerned about this ‘calendar agriculture’. “This spring makes it clear: we cannot work with a calendar. The weather ultimately determines how things go.”
The government imposes sanctions when farmers do not comply with the October 1st rule. For example, farmers will be reduced in the amount of fertilizer they are allowed to use in the following year. “The discount increases the longer you wait after October 1,” explains Ten Cate.
Dry periods are expected for next week. But: “You need a longer period of drought to plant potatoes. It’s still very cold now,” says De Vries. She hopes for a good summer so that growth can recover: “Summer can make or break it.”
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