We have a huge range of field-by-field potential,especially in autumn-sown crops. As everyone knows, this is linkedto wet soils during the 2008 harvest.

Tyre technology for tractors and trailers has come on leaps andbounds in the past few years and they can, of course, be restrictedto headlands. But combines caused much of the compactionproblem.

Their tyre size has not kept up with their increase in weightand the need for large grain tanks to cope with high outputs. Widthon the road is the problem. Yes, tracks are available, but thetypical sub-400ha unit would see them as a 1-in-10-yearrequirement.

Compaction is a crop killer and its effects have been mostclearly seen in winter oilseed rape.

Seed-bed preparation and sowing method have been more importantthan sowing date in achieving an economic crop this year. Thesuccess of autumn rooting greatly determines yield potential andcertainly reflects soil structure.

The poorer crops have been those established by power harrowdrills where more often the plants tend to have highly branchingroots at cultivation depth.

Clubroot is an ever-increasing problem, so it’s worth checkingyour crops. Target lower lying areas of fields or light patcheswhere the pH is more difficult to maintain. The disease spreadsquickly within a field, and growing Mendel or quitting rape is thechoice.

We’ve tried a few different inputs to help get poorly rootedcereals moving this spring. An application of phosphate plusmanganese and PGR has helped create a better base and strongertillers. Rolling has also encouraged crops on lighter soils.

The notion that non-inversion techniques are inappropriate insuch an autumn is not reflected in what has happened in thefield.

Where previous soil management has been good the carryingcapacity is much greater than in a ploughed system, and thecarry-forward damage has had much less impact on followingcrops.

Problems with spring-sown cereals have mainly been due to lateploughing or inappropriate timing of fertiliser application.

Twenty odd years ago MF combine drills were commonplace. A nearneighbour still uses one and everyone comments on his excellentspring barley.

Wheat is racing away, with flag leaves beginning to show inearlier crops. Septoria will be developing faster – we’ve had rainand temperatures are rising.

Thin crops need every leaf to work to its maximum, so don’tstint on T2 rates. Do check crops for mildew; it’s much moreevident than usual.

Spring barley has had its T1 and my choice recommendation for T2is epoxiconazole + Amistar Opti (azoxystrobin +chlorothalonil) or Fandango (prothioconazole +fluoxystrobin) + chlorthalonil.

I still see too many sprayer operators with booms set too highand grey mist spreading behind, which looks bad from a layman’sposition. Use the latest nozzle technology, keep the booms down anddrift is very hard to see.