Farmers are left red-faced

A field of poppies on the wolds above Flixton
A field of poppies on the wolds above Flixton

THE glorious splashes of red poppies that have bloomed in some of this year’s agricultural crops are giving their owners red faces of embarrassment.

Swathes of the brilliant scarlet flowers are adorning many fields as the 2011 harvest approaches and are especially eye-catching on the Wolds above Flixton, Staxton and Sherburn. But to farmers the poppies are an infestation that should have been eradicated earlier in the season.

Graham Clayton, an agronomist who advises local arable farmers, said: “The poppies are a lot worse than normal, it’s a really difficult year with them. There are red fields all over the country.It’s a bonus for the public and photographers but an embarrassment for farmers and I get an ear bashing from my clients.”

He explained that most of the poppies are in the oil seed rape and the herbicide that is used to control them has limited ability. It has to be applied in the Autumn and if it is not done particularly well, or weather conditions are wrong there is no second chance.

Dry weather has meant shorter sparser crops, giving the poppies better growing conditions and if plants are not growing very actively because of the dry weather then the chemical to kill the poppy is not absorbed very well.

Cereal crops are a fraction of what they should be because of the dryness which meant a lot of poppies thrived at the bottom of the crop or grew after late rain when it was too late to spray.

Apart from the poppy competing with the crop that has been sown farmers can be hit financially if the poppy seed capsule is not broken by the combine and remains in the seed. It may have to be cleaned out of the harvested crop. If the capsule breaks the seed is so fine it will generally blow away from the back of the combine.

“Poppy seed stays in the ground many many years and is very difficult to completely eradicate,” added Mr Clayton.