Apart from some late-drilled wheat, the majority of our crops are well established, but the mild winter (bar this week) has done little to suppress pest and weed populations and these will need early attention as the season starts.

On higher pH and leaching prone soils, low boron levels are a concern in oilseed rape as flowering and pod production could be compromised. So, as well as assessing crops for nitrogen and growth regulator requirements, we are planning for boron treatments.

Phoma levels vary markedly according to varietal resistance in our trials in Kent. Those rated 4 have very high levels, but varieties rated 6 plus have no visible lesions in untreated plots. Light leaf spot isn’t obvious yet, but lesions didn’t appear until late February/March last spring, so we’ll keep monitoring.

While the deadline for propyzamide has passed, carbetamide (Crawler), if not applied earlier, is an alternative for grassweed control.

In cereals, residual herbicides have worked well, though weeds continued to germinate and few fields are clean – earlier-drilled crops are worst affected. Whilst we are out checking weed status, we are also calculating nitrogen requirements based on green leaf area assessments. Late drilled wheat plants are small and will need early nitrogen and growth regulators to boost tillering. Wet areas look stressed and could benefit from early manganese.

Septoria is present on lower leaves, brown is rust showing in some varieties (notably Solstice and Cordiale) and we will have to wait and see what the season holds in terms of yellow rust – a lot can happen between now and T0 treatment in late March.

Mildew is present at low levels in winter barley and the yellow tinge of hunger is starting to appear, so crops will benefit from a feed over the next couple of weeks.

Crown rust is present in some winter oat crops, with high levels amongst volunteers and on oats used in cover crops.

With some land now committed to spring cropping as a means of managing blackgrass there is an eagerness to get drilling – but ensure seed-bed conditions are right. Remember, ‘well sown is half grown,’ and that the best crops come from drilling into warm, not cold, seed-beds.