By The Gleaner

ANOTHER week with little or no rain in most parts has been great to get on with land work – potato planting is now well under way, although soil temperatures are still low as some parts of Scotland. Some Easter with temperatures as low as -5°C, is not good for newly sown emerging plants, but this is in contrast with average temperature figures, where for the months of March, April and May across the UK has risen 1°C from 7.1°C between 1961 and 1990 to 8.1°C in 2007 to 2016.

The three warmest springs on record, 2011, 2014, and 2007 have all happened in the last 10 years, with 2011 being the hottest at 9.2°C.

There was also an annual average of just 33 frosts in the last decade, compared to the 1960’s when there were 37 in a given year and the number of days recording grass frost has fallen slightly, particularly for Scotland.

But as I write this Tuesday following the Easter weekend, it was one of those grass frost morning here in the Borders and according to the BBC weather, elsewhere in Scotland.

The markets are also watching the global weather, as a lack of rain is now giving some concerns. Markets are starting to firm as a result. Traders are keeping a firm eye on rainfall in the Northern Hemisphere where rain is forecast for the US plains and Mid-west which will be good for winter wheat, but may cause some delay to maize planting.

Dry weather is a concern in Western Europe, with little rain to date and no prospect in the next week’s forecast. This saw new crop prices pick up by around £1-£1.50 as a result. Eastern Europe and Black Sea crops are in good order, with rain forecast and there are no other issues with their winter wheat crops.

Many farmers in both the UK and Europe are waiting for the important first rain post drilling, as nearly all the spring barley has been planted for a week or two in most regions.Many crops are in need of rain to get plants growing, but it's not easy with the current low night temperatures.

Liffe feed wheat futures continue to trade in a tight range but spot demand for feed and soft wheat to feed mills remains strong. This not the case for milling wheat, where demand is low in an oversupplied market place.

This has resulted in the quality premium being only a few pounds higher than feed prices and at the same time exports are almost non- existent.

Feed barley prices remain good, as domestic on farm demand continues and prices are currently higher in the north and west of England. Prices are being supported by the export trade, even though Spain – one of the main UK barley export destinations – had its own big crop in 2016 and still has sufficient stocks.

French barley levels are now forecast to drop at the end of 2016-17 season due to stronger exports. As a result, instead of rising year-on-year, its barley stocks are now expected to fall and at 1m tonnes would be the lowest stock level since 2007-08.

This is in contrast to the UK, where unless barley exports or demand picks up sharply, we are looking at larger stocks year-on-year.

Over the past 30 working days, nearby UK feed wheat futures have closed within a range of just £3.15 per tonne. This is the lowest range recorded since last June and reflected the finely balanced UK supply and demand situation for wheat this season.

UK wheat prices cannot fall too far, unless world markets also fall, as they need to remain generally uncompetitive in export markets in order to preserve domestic supplies. Equally, prices cannot rise too far, unless world markets also rise, as imports are already arriving into the UK and especially in the Northern regions.

As a result, for the remainder of this season, old crop UK wheat prices are likely to continue to move in a relatively narrow range, unless we start to see more volatile movements in global markets and the continuing dry weather may in future be the reason for further volatility.

May, 2017, old crop Liffe feed wheat futures were up £1.35 to £149.30 and November new crop futures were up £1.30 to £139.25, which more or less sees the £10 per tonne difference being maintained between old and new crops.

UK wheat exports for the year to date stand at 1.26m tonnes compared to 1.6m tonnes last year at this time. Barley exports stand at 1.13m tonnes, which is slightly down from 1.25m tonnes in 2016 at this time.

EU wheat exports for the year to date are 18.8m tonnes, compared to 23m tonnes last year at this time and barley exports at 4.1m tonnes are well back on the 8.9m tonnes last year to date.

Dry weather across many parts of Europe is giving new crop rapeseed support, but a large tonnage of soyabeans from Brazil, up 3m tonnes from the last estimate to 111m tonnes. If confirmed, this would be 14% larger than the country’s previous record harvest of 97.2 m tonnes in 2014-15.

Combined with other South American countries, this would take global soya production to a record 346m tonnes which would be 26m tonnes higher than the previous record set in 2014-15.

Stocks are now projected to hit 87m tonnes at the end of the 2016-17 season and the rise in forecast world stocks adds further weight to an already heavy market which has already seen nearby Chicago soya prices fall by 14% since mid-January.

This coming season the EU's rapeseed crop is expected to be 1m tonnes higher than last season’s 20m tonne crop, but this still means that Europe will need to rely on significant imports of canola from Canada, Australia and Ukraine.

UK crop production is expected to be up by 6-7% at between 1.8-1.9m tonnes, but is difficult to predict with crop establishment problems in South-east England.

World record for Case IH and Väderstad

Case IH and Väderstad have smashed the world record for the area of maize planted in 24 hours.Using a Magnum 380 CVX tractor and a 16-row Väderstad Tempo L planter, the outfit covered 502.05 ha, more than 50ha more than the previous record.

Working in two fields in western Hungary, the combination was used to apply not just seed, but also fertiliser and insecticide. Planting was at 30in (76.2cm) row spacings and the combination covered 12.19m in each run, with Case IH AccuGuide auto-steering used to deliver straight and accurate passes at working speeds up to 24kph.

Its 2cm pass-to-pass accuracy was provided by Case IH’s exclusive RTK+ correction signal network. The work during the record event was monitored by staff from Gödöll? University.