Crops have generally fared very well through what has been another hard winter. Our lowest recorded temperature was -17C. The main difference from last year was that the crops were afforded some level of protection this year by a blanket of snow

Oilseed rape canopies are variable depending on drilling dates and the level of pigeon damage. We have seen some very large flocks in some locations, but hopefully these will soon start to break up as we move into the spring period. This variability in green area index (GAI) for the rape crops is going to mean adjusting the nitrogen regime to the individual crop’s requirement, with the smaller canopied crops receiving a bigger proportion of their nitrogen earlier in the year.

There are a few rape crops that for one reason or another did not receive any phoma control in the autumn. These crops have phoma evident in them now and will receive the treatment that they should have had in the autumn as soon as ground conditions allow.

Most wheat and barley crops have come through the winter well but on some of the wetter ground there has been significant frost lift. Winter oats as usual have been particularly susceptible to frost lift. I have seen a lot of evidence that subsoiling prior to planting the crop has all but eliminated the frost lift problem on farms that are prone to the problem.

Septoria tritici levels are beginning to build in most crops now that the weather has turned milder and wetter. Levels of septoria are significantly higher in second wheats established without ploughing, which is unsurprising given the amount of trash left behind as a source of innoculum. With high grain values I suspect most growers will be keen to use a T0 fungicide this year, which will provide a good start to the septoria control programme.

With spring top dressing just around the corner, I would urge growers to get their spreaders calibrated before they start. Fertiliser is too expensive to be applying it inaccurately for the sake of the cost of a calibration.