The last month has been frustrating as rain and wind have seriously restricted any fieldwork. Cold easterly winds have stressed all crops and those on the cliff tops are beginning to suffer to the point of crop failure in some cases. 

Our hopes of a warm February and March to try and boost tillering in so many backward cereals have not materialised and many of these look battered from the long winter. One benefit of the strong easterly winds is that it has allowed some drilling to start again. However, a backlog of spraying and fertiliser applications have built up.  

In wheat it will be grassweed control which will be the main priority once warm weather returns. Applications of herbicides such as Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) or Broadway Star (florasulam and pyroxsulam) are long overdue, but temperatures have been far too cold to consider their application.

At the time of writing no yellow rust has been spotted, but be on the lookout for its appearance in susceptible varieties such as Oakley and Torch. It is a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ it will appear. The cold weather should allow us to get to the T0 timing for yellow rust control rather than having to apply earlier T1 fungicides. Septoria tritici levels are high in the earlier drilled crops, so a T0 fungicide to include chlorothalonil will be used.

Oilseed rape crops have had a double whammy setback in the last month. Persistent cold winds have caused a lot of leaf scorch, but the main problem has been from pigeons. I have never seen so many crops totally annihilated as in the last few weeks. Even the few better crops have been grazed to the point where it is a pleasant surprise to walk a field where pigeons have not decimated the crop. As a result yield potential of affected crops will now be much lower. 

A follow on problem to look out for will be pollen beetle. With so many crops set back they will be at the susceptible green bud stage much later than normal, so if the weather is warm at this time it will be a case of using the new pollen beetle thresholds to see if an insecticide is needed.

Fungicides with PGR activity will soon be required on the thicker crops although there won’t be many that need shortening.  Be careful not to miss the cut-off timings for herbicides such as Galera (clopyralid and picloram) for cleaver, thistle and mayweed control as the window of application is always very tight.

The end of March or early April is normally time to be thinking about drilling spring oilseed rape. However, with soils so cold it would be best waiting a little longer as spring rape wants to jump out of the ground and not be held back by cold soils and frosts. Also, if the spring rape is replacing a failed winter rape crop which received metazachlor then be careful not to exceed the three year metazachlor limits when considering spring rape herbicides.