Suffolk and north Essex farmers are facing a dire spring sowing season - piling on the pressure after a hugely challenging time last year for autumn harvest and drilling.

Farmers want to get their main spring crops drilled by mid-April at the latest to stand a chance of them succeeding - but the window is closing fast.

A soaking wet autumn meant many farmers were unable to get all their planned preparations and drilling done - so they postponed until spring.

Even those who did manage all that they planned in autumn have still been caught out by the wet spring.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Many have been trying to salvage their winter sugar beet crop while not damaging soils - which has been made very hard by the boggy conditions.

Another headache has been the weather forecasts - which many are reporting have proved inaccurate and caused their plans to unravel.

Meanwhile, intermittent rain has stopped soils drying out - slowing progress. Many growers are reporting a nightmare first few months to the season. It means overall they are expecting cropping areas and yields to be down this year.

"It's been the knock-on effect," said Richard Scott, who farms at Hestley Green, Thorndon, near Eye.

"The main problem has been your spring workload has been increased because you couldn't get things in in the autumn.

"I have probably got more spring crops planned because of the (wet) autumn. The extraordinarily wet February hasn't allowed us to work through the backlog.

"For us, a fair bit of our acreage is fairly late-drilled with vining peas - and sugar beet is always a bit more flexible."

But generally he would want to get his spring crops in by March 20 - and that deadline has already passed, he said.

Oliver Pipe, of Poplar Farm, Tuddenham, said it has been slow progress on the farm.

"From a planning point of view we did get everything we wanted to done in the autumn but through rotation we have a lot of spring barley planned but even that has been difficult with the constant wet," he said.

"It nearly dries out then it rains again. The later you drill spring barley the more the yield drops off because it's not got as long to grow. 

"We have probably still got 90ha of spring barley to drill, then some sugar beet and linseed - but linseed can be later."

He added: "The biggest frustration is the weather forecast because they ave obviously got quite clever but they don't give us an accurate forecast. You think you have got an extra couple of days, then it rains again."

But soils can dry very quickly, said Richard, and farmers are used to dealing with adverse conditions.

"To some extent it's why we farm - it's what farming is."