I feel a flutter of optimism as a dry week is forecast and there is a sense that spring is arriving! Perhaps wheels can turn and we can start to chip away at the heavy spring workload?  

Nitrogen and sulphur plans are in place and winter oilseed rape, later drilled wheats (mid-October onwards) and winter barleys will receive their first fertiliser dose as soon as growers can travel. Earlier drilled, more forward wheats can be tackled next. Although cool days and nights are forecast there are clear signs of early growth and crops are ready to utilise these nutrients.

Don’t give up on pigeon and rabbit control just yet; pest control over the next few weeks is important to allow those tired, skeletal crops a chance to grow away from the damaged caused. Early spring sown cereals will be particularly vulnerable to rooks.

Growers will be eager to start seed-bed cultivations and drilling. Remember that good seed-beds are often more important than calendar date, it may be several days or even weeks before some fields are dry enough for action.

Following the “wet hell” that was last autumn/winter there are a few outstanding spray jobs to be completed as soon as field conditions allow. Check all cereal crops were protected against BYDV infection – by seed treatment and/or foliar sprays – into early November. As a precaution it could be worth controlling any overwintered populations in these crops before colonies expand and spread the virus in early spring.  

Also, many “at risk” cereals did not receive the planned autumn manganese application. As these crops begin to grow they are already showing severe symptoms and should be treated with robust doses as soon as possible.

Pre-emergence herbicides applied to early sown cereals appear to have done a remarkably good job, with relatively low levels of blackgrass in known “dirty” fields. In the main weed populations are also relatively low in non-herbicide treated crops.

Post-emergence grassweed herbicides e.g. Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) can be applied when soils warm (7oC) and the crop and weeds have been actively growing for about four days. To maximise efficacy try to apply Atlantis alone; this is especially important on crops that did not receive an autumn herbicide or where weed pressure is moderate/high.

On rapeseed the label “cut off” date for Crawler (carbetamide) is the end of February.