As ever the weather dominates our agricultural activities. In the past fortnight we have had some wonderful sunny days. In fact my solar panels have recently been generating more power than much of last summer!
However, it is only early March and we are back to winter-like conditions with a couple of inches of snow and plummeting temperatures. Nevertheless in the fine weather most growers managed to get some nitrogen onto winter sown crops, ploughing was resumed or commenced where the land was fit, contractors were busy spreading muck and some sprayers managed to venture forth to keep the weeds in check.
In general disease levels are lower than the past few years and the current cold weather will aid in that respect. However, once plants start actively growing, crops will need to be monitored on a regular basis. I suspect growth stage change may be somewhat out of the ordinary this season. Although there is not much sign of top growth in most crops there are signs of fresh roots in kinder situations. Hopefully, earlier applied nitrogen will soon take effect.
In cereals the main weed problem is annual meadow grass, although as soils warm up no doubt there will be the usual flush of broad-leaved weeds. Timely herbicide applications, weather permitting, are always the most effective. There is barely a week goes past that I do not bless the fact that blackgrass has not managed to progress into this region.
Pigeon prevention on our backward oilseed rape crops is going to be vital in creating a reasonable canopy for light interception. Winter barleys have lost some of their earlier bloom and an application of manganese along with foliar nutrients will be the next task.
Although a few more fields on lighter ground have been drilled with wheat, the main emphasis will soon be on spring sown barley. Seed rate will require careful planning. Thousand grain weights should be established to ensure that the optimum number of seeds is sown. As a result of last year many seed samples may be on the low side. Sow by seed numbers and not by weight. Having said that, in view of the potentially poorer seed-beds, the optimum seed rate may be higher than normal.