Cooler weather has slowed both crop and disease development over recent weeks, although final leaf 3 on the more forward wheat crops is out.

Although dissecting the stem to determine the nodal development and growth stage is quicker and easier, I still prefer to roll back the leaf layers to determine exactly which leaf is emerged and how much of it is out to ensure we get timing right and protect final leaf 3 with the T1 application.

With T0’s on the earlier crops applied in early April, we should be able to keep intervals to within 3-4 weeks. Disease pressure has been helped by cooler conditions, but septoria is still a concern whilst we keep having the showery weather. Due to the cooler start to the spring, broad-leaved weeds are only just starting to emerge.

Oilseed rape is very variable, with some well-established crops that haven’t suffered pigeons or flea beetle well into flower now. The cool weather and early flowering has helped reduce the early sclerotinia risk and we will monitor the sclerotinia forecasting and weather to determine timing of the first fungicide, usually around yellow bud to first petal fall.

Many crops are quite variable and in these cases a split fungicide programme may be more suitable to cover the longer flowering period, as timing of application is the most important factor in sclerotinia protection. Pollen beetles have not caused too much trouble, with the early flowers attracting the beetles and helping pollination, but backward crops still need to be monitored.

Winter beans have never looked back since drilling and flower buds were visible last week. Due to the cooler start to the year spring germinating wild oats, brome and charlock has only recently emerged, resulting in a tight window to apply herbicides prior to buds being visible. Crop shading is also likely to be an issue in some of the thicker crops, but this will also help with weed suppression following the later weed germination.

There have been some low level signs of weevil activity, which will be monitored and with resistance to pyrethroids detected last year, any insecticide applications need to be justified and level of control carefully monitored.

Spring drilling has been a challenge, but where we managed to get crops in they are coming through well. We hoped to get the last drilled this week, weather dependent. I haven’t heard a cuckoo yet, but they can’t be far away. In many cases, due to the surface drying but remaining wet below, we have resorted to direct drilling with relatively good results.

However, in both winter and spring crops headlands have suffered and the effects are clear to see in crops this year, with the soil only ever drying on the surface and remaining wet below. Cultivation strategies and field management will need to be reviewed this autumn to rectify damage and improve the productivity of some headlands.

Tissue testing is being carried out on a range of crops and fields to better target nutritional inputs. Although the sampling only provides a snapshot of the nutritional status of the plant at that moment in time and there are many variables to uptake, it will at least provide some information and justification for more informed nutrient applications where appropriate.