A mysterious yellow orb appeared in the sky last week sending farmers and agronomists fleeing to the fields as the land starts to dry out. Unfortunately, a cold easterly also helps crops change colour! What appeared to be fields with a green tinge have now become chameleon and turned purple and orange to blend in with the soil.

Unfortunately, only walking the land will tell you the whole truth about plant populations and the answer isn’t always pleasing. With soil temperatures hovering just above 3?C there is little sign of any crop growth yet.

As dry weather continues, drilling is high on the priority list. However, I am very fearful on the heavy clays of dragging wet soil up from depth to create large horse head lumps. Patience and passing lightly over the weathered surface is the preferred method of attack. The thin backward wheats in bulb fly hotspots have received chlorpyrifos treatments. All the remaining Wheat crops have had, or will be getting, the first dressing of nitrogen and sulphur.

Very few crops received an autumn herbicide program and with temperatures staying stubbornly low no immediate plans are in hand to start spraying just yet. Atlantis will still be partnered with a residual if conditions allow in March. Once crop and weed growth really start then a rethink will be in order for which, if any partner product is to be used. Those crops destined to have a Broadway treatment will be left until soil temperatures are over 8?C. This all seems a long way in the future, as I look at purple coloured two leaf Wheat’s.

Having commented on how well the rape looked in my last article, I have spent the last month back tracking as growers demand to see where these so called good crops are! Unfortunately, as I depress myself looking at waterlogged fields, any green cover is an oasis and rapes following winter barley do create the mirage of an oasis.

Tidying up of volunteers, brome and oats is being done with a contact graminicides this includes a fungicide where there is leaf to contact. For many crops a burst of growth will provide the missing leaf to apply fungicides and trace elements if required.

Winter barley remains my Jekyll and Hyde crop, as I spend large parts of the year chastising it and then loving it for the early harvest and drilling opportunities it brings. Valiant efforts were made to spray the crops last autumn and this has paid huge dividends as crops look weed free. Fertiliser is being applied and the first sprays will be applied in early April.

My Cinderella crop is oats and needless to say they look well at the moment shining a vibrant green among the brown surrounding areas. Little will be done to these until April when weeds will be tidied up and fertiliser applied. Despite all the rain last year they still performed well and are now a firm favourite on many farms.