As the days lengthen, and the weather eventually starts to cooperate, land begins to dry. Despite my best efforts to dissuade growers from moving, the dam has burst and the first tentative tractors have been moving spreading sulphur-based fertilisers where applicable. Fortunately, not all land is passable and another week or two will be required to allow safe passage ensuring that fertiliser is not applied to the many forward lush crops. I accept that sulphur has to be applied early, but my calendar and theirs are definitely out of sync!

Oilseed rape is currently exercising the most thought and according to fresh weight measures, we vary from 30kg/ha to a wapping 140 kgs/ha of nitrogen in the crop. My best estimate for most crops would be about 50 kg/ha of nitrogen. Pigeons, on the whole have dined elsewhere this winter and most crops are looking well.

Unfortunately spring rape volunteers and charlock have also prospered, forcing some bifenox and oil to be applied, although I fear that results will be variable. Fields due for Galera (clopyralid + picloram) and Shield (clopyralid) application are approaching there safe spray timing limit, as flower buds are certainly visible in many crops. Light leaf spot can now be found and spray recommendations left either as prothioconazole for disease only control, or a triazole with some growth regulatory activity.

Winter barley crops have now turned their usual spring daffodil yellow and will be receiving their first dressing of nitrogen imminently. I am not a big fan of T0 applications in winter barley, however, this year the soup of disease in these crops is worrying and some will receive an early fungicide. This is likely to be combined with the first part of the growth regulator program to try and control the inter node length and increase stem thickness.

Winter wheat crops are also a soup of septoria, and again will require a robust T0. The big debate for many agronomists and growers is the value of a T0. Again I find myself paddling against the flow here as I think a robust T0 timed correctly in late March will provide the initial disease control we require. Unfortunately, the weather in the next couple of week’s maybe the critical factor in determining the need for a T0. Robust rates at T0 need not cost a fortune and can provide an ideal start to the program. Chlorothanonil is a vital ingredient and should be applied at a minimum of 500g/litre of active, in combination with a triazole.

Similar to all the autumn-drilled crops, growth regulation is going to be very important and programs will need to be started early. Split rate chlormoquat and Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) or canopy will be to the fore. If we add the need to apply spring herbicides then we are certainly waking up from our winter hibernation with a workload that will keep the spray operator busy. Please remember safe spray intervals for products like Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron), Broadway (pyroxsulam-based) and chlorpyrifos.

Spring drilling is yet to start and crops like spring beans, spring barley and spring wheat should be drilled as soon as conditions allow. For those growers staring at waterlogged fields my sympathies go out to you having experienced it in the spring of 2001, it is not pleasant.