While the rest of the country may be desperate for rain, we’re just grateful for a bit of dry.  Ground conditions have improved enough for nitrogen to be applied to most oilseed rape crops and the few late-sown wheats that we’ve got. 

Most cereals are very leafy, but don’t think that they are much further developed than the date and day length would suggest. However, more warm days will move them forward quickly. All the nitrogen is in the leaf canopy, so once they start growing rapidly, they will find no soil reserves and yellow-off. That may be a good thing for some but I can’t believe that they will shed many tillers as a result, because they are so strong.  Therefore the challenge in 2012 will be to keep them all upright untill harvest.

This all means that our well-laid plans of T0 beginning about 20th March is already out of the window. Applications will start this week, along with aphid control in many crops. We have had insufficient frost to see off aphids and they can be found easily together with emerging gout fly. Rely on natural predators? Not this early in the season. Aphids and the threat of barley yellow dwarf virus is still as serious as ever and they need taking out.

In Oilseed Rape, disease levels are low and only a few crops need treatment. We are just sizing up which ones really need growth regulator (fungicide) treatment and which can be done more naturally by manipulating with nitrogen. However, some will have to be done this way especially where the plant population is too high. Sulphur treatments need to be measured in to make sure the correct rates are used but, contrary to popular belief, timing is not critical providing at least some is on early.