With predominantly wet weather through December and January there has been little or no field operations carried out in the Southwest. We are now experiencing a dry period at the time of writing and some growers are now beginning to contemplate getting back on the land.

Most oilseed rape crops received their autumn fungicides prior to the weather closing us down. Some crops are carrying very large canopies, which are going to require careful spring management if yield is not to be adversely affected. Delayed nitrogen, a good plant growth regulator (PGR) programme and probably less total nitrogen are going to be needed. At the other end of the spectrum there are a few late drilled rape fields where the establishment is a bit thin and the canopy is small and will need to be chased in order to generate a big enough canopy to achieve a good yield.

Wheat crops are generally looking well, but anything drilled in September is looking very forward and carrying significant levels of septoria. A robust T0 will be required to try and get the disease back to acceptable levels. These forward crops will, like the oilseed rape, also require careful early nitrogen management and a good PGR programme.

Winter barley crops are carrying good levels of rhynchosporium at present, particularly KWS Cassia. This is hardly surprising considering the relatively mild and wet time we have experienced up until recently. Varieties with a better resistance rating for rhyncho than Cassia are definitely looking cleaner, which helps to emphasise the need to grow varieties that will help themselves with the disease management.

With drier ground conditions beginning to prevail, some growers are now taking the opportunity to apply phosphate and potash to crops, whilst others are turning their thoughts to ground preparation for spring crops. This week will have seen quite a few sprayers getting out and applying glyphosate to fields due to be cultivated.

With spring just around the corner and most crops looking reasonable it is the lull before the storm, and despite low commodity prices an exciting time for all those involved in crop production.