In common with almost all Crop Watch reports in the past weeks this one is succumbing to “cracked record syndrome” – foul weather, cold wet soils and crops struggling. In the middle of last week the sun was giving an illusion of warmth, drillers were putting spring barley into tolerable seed-beds on lighter ground and I was deluded into thinking that things were picking up.

A quick check on my soil thermometers brought me back to reality. With fields at 2C behind dykes or on north facing slopes and creeping up to 4C on the sunnier braes, it is little wonder that there has been virtually no growth since the last time of writing. Further falls of snow have been no aid to crop growth.

 

Some backward wheat that has had the temerity to attempt a bit of extension in the last relatively warm weather window has since been severely damaged by the latest round of severe frosts. Some of it will not survive.

The only upside is that diseases do not appear to be flourishing either. No doubt they will be biding their time. However, we need warmth and a suitable target before contemplating any fungicide application. Likewise weed control, in those crops which have had no treatment to date, will have to await kinder conditions. In most cases we will be relying on a mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron co-formulation to take out annual meadow grass and broad-leaved weeds.

There are few oilseed rape crops that have not taken hammering from pigeons. As a result there is no foliar disease evident as there is no foliage on which to grow. The jury must remain out for the meantime as to how much oilseed rape will have to be ploughed out. As always it will depend on the economics of the alternative.

 

If there is any glimmer of hope on the horizon I would have to say that, in general, winter barley does not appear to have suffered to the same degree as wheat or oilseed rape. Probably because it was drilled earlier, before the temperatures started to drop in the autumn, hence was that bit stronger going into the winter. Cue mass winter barley death in the offing!

 

Some potato growers with substantial acreages to plant will undoubtedly be getting twitchy. Patience will be sorely stretched in the weeks to come, but at current temperatures soil is an extremely hostile environment to consider planting.

 

For all crops there is going to be so much to do and time will be at a premium whenever we are given the chance to get on. The prayer mat has taken over from the trowel and hand lens as the agronomist’s “must have” tool!