Among winter crops, barleys in Cheshire take the prize entirely due to the quality of seed sown.  The wheat seed – most of it C2 – was barely fit for sowing at all. With hindsight, we’d have been better sending lots with TGW of low-30 grammes back on the day it arrived.  It might have been acceptable for germination, but in all other respects was dire.

Basic and C1 seed sown under breeders’ contracts was dramatically better than commercial C2.   It obviously harboured damaging levels of fusarium and microdochium, which have acted as toxins hampering root development ever since. As these diseases are obviously still present, they have potential to cause ear blight again this season if it comes wet during flowering.

The best wheats are from the best seed lots; Cordiale and C1 Diego, both of which have heads emerging and will get a T3 of Firefly (prothioconazole + fluoxastrobin) once ears are fully clear. Alchemy has once again shown how robust it is; enduring cold, flooding and lousy spring weather to look something half-decent, despite all that was thrown at it.

Disease levels are quite good; Septoria is well under control and the worst threat is eyespot, which is quite ugly in many crops.  In a year like this, we are going to squeeze every last ounce of yield that we can and we need to protect against ear blight. Therefore, we’re maintaining close intervals and will be completing T3 using anything containing prothioconazole, mostly with a strob’ as well.

Oilseed rape has flowered well, not giving up early, and will get more sclerotinia control if it rains this week.  Winter oats have heads emerging and are short, needing virtually no growth regulator at all, which is remarkable. They have reasonable yield prospects and will also have more disease control especially to protect against crown rust.

The risky side of the equation remains spring-sown crops. They came on very well with the heavy rain, but now need more to finish them off.  Those on sands and moss, especially in Lancashire, will burn up and come to nothing if we don’t get good rain in the next week. Spring barleys have awns emerging and spring oats are at flag leaf.

Spring-sown winter oats have struggled, but are now getting going and are at second node stage.  Disease levels are all under control, but some of the weed is proving tricky to eliminate where it came as a massive flush and shading occurred. By this stage, we’re running out of weed control options so its now or never.