After a false start in early February, we are eagerly awaiting a drier spell to continue with fertiliser applications and spraying.

Backward oilseed rape crops – those not treated during the dry spell – barley and late wheats are in need of their first dose of nitrogen and sulphur. While walking fields, it is clear that all crops are growing and ready to utilise some nitrogen -if only we could get near the field to apply it.

Hopefully, some of the earlier applied nitrogen stays within the root zone.Having just peeked at the weather forecast for the next fortnight, it seems that at best we can expect an unsettled period, remaining damp but turning milder towards the beginning of March. So a large peak of spring work lies ahead, especially for those growing sugar beet and other spring crops.Use this time to catch up on the field walking. In particular, we should be finalising plans for spring grassweed control. When conditions improve, be ready to apply outstanding sprays, such as Atlantis (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron) and in oilseed rape clopyralid-based sprays, such as Galera for sow thistle and mayweed control and cleaver suppression.

If clopyralid applications are held back due to cooler, wetter conditions there will be a smaller window of opportunity to hit the crop before the latest growth stage of application (before flower buds are visible above crop canopy).

Keep monitoring “at risk” crops for wheat bulb fly damage. Rolling, early nitrogen and deadheart sprays can be deployed to reduce the impact of this pest.On rust prone and moderately septoria susceptible varieties, T0 applications are important.

A mix of cheaper triazoles plus or minus chlorothalonil (as appropriate) will reduce the risk of early infection. Note that Bayer has updated the Atlantis tank-mix guide this spring.  Protection is cheaper than eradication and T0’s allow flexibility around the T1 fungicide timing, if required, due to farm scale, equipment or inclement weather.

The cold winter has reduced the immediate risk of rust infection but don’t be complacent, temperatures of 10-15C and high humidity are optimal for infection. As temperatures improve, the infection potential of all diseases will increase, particularly if conditions are moist. Do not leave susceptible crops unprotected once the weather warms up.