What a finish to last year and a start to this year. We in this region, however, have very little to complain about compared to other large parts of the country. In general we at least have crops in the ground and many are, thanks to the insulation of the snow, looking quite good. Having had the temperatures down to minus 13C the covering was welcome.

From my perspective not much autumn spraying was done and thoughts turn what we are going to do with barley crops with blackgrass and annual meadow grass. This is tricky as very limited post-emergence graminicides are available here. Wheat is not such a problem, but is a waiting game for the right conditions.

What pre-ems that were applied have done quite a good job though follow up treatments are needed in some fields.

I have heard of some reports of yellow rust being found in some volunteer wheat in oilseed rape, but otherwise, apart from the inevitable septoria on some early drilled older leaves, the disease levels are low at the moment.

Oilseed rapes have continued to be a problem in parts and more is still being ripped up where basically bare soil greets the farmer. However, I do still have fields that look brown, but under the snow cover the plants that were sufficient in numbers to keep have grown and provided the pigeons are kept off, with TLC I think we can salvage.

Growth stimulation is what needs to be the focus from now on as a matter of urgency and careful fertiliser planning even more important. Poor rooting and waterlogged soils will be detrimental to rapid growth and increasing root mass and early nitrogen the key to success. However, too much N and also S too early can lead to leaching if water logging has not gone away so attention to soil conditions and consistent growth is vital.

Spring cropping is looking to be bigger than ever throughout the country and establishment is the key. How seedbeds are achieved is going to be tricky and patience will be vital so we are not trying to force the situation if conditions are not right.

A challenging time ahead for all!