At last a spell of dry weather has allowed land to significantly dry up.  It has allowed plenty of nitrogen to be applied, sprayers to get in fields again and some spring drilling to start on free draining soils. 

The cold easterly winds though have stressed some crops, in particular late sown wheats which have browned off or turned blue.  Winter barley has been the big surprise as it is normally a terrible yellow colour at this time of year, but it has still retained a healthy appearance. 

Some warmer weather is much needed to get crops growing and to be able to utilise all the recent nitrogen fertiliser that has been applied.  All winter cereal crops are needing some early nitrogen this year as none need starving to lose tillers.

Patience is the key word when deciding when to apply grass weed herbicides such as Atlantis, Broadway Star or Unite to wheat as it is still too cold for them to work effectively.  It is tempting to apply these products in fields which have had little or no autumn herbicides, but patience waiting for some warmer weather will help to get the best out of them. 

Applications of chlorpyrifos have been made as wheat bulb fly egg hatch is underway.  Hopefully, there will be little trouble from the pest this year, particularly with crops being so thin it will not take many larvae to soon cause a lot of damage.  Now it will be a case of looking closely for deadhearts in the coming weeks especially where no chlorpyrifos has been applied.

 Some difficult decisions have been made as to which fields of oilseed rape are worth keeping.  Even where there are just enough rape plants to make a viable crop you look at a carpet of well tillered blackgrass that has received no herbicides and wonder if spraying glyphosate in these areas would be the best option in the long run. 

Where crops received no autumn fungicide then light leaf spot and phoma are at high levels which reinforces the importance of the pre-Christmas fungicide.  Higher fungicide rates are now being applied in these situations as light leaf spot levels will soon escalate and cause further yield losses.

 Spring barley is being grown on heavier land that would not typically be considered good spring barley land.  Keeping the seed rates up on these heavier soils despite the incredibly high seed prices will be important as barley cannot compensate for a thinner plant stand compared with wheat.  This could easily mean sowing over 400 seeds/sq m on heavy soil types particularly if drilling late March or early April. 

Post-emergence blackgrass and brome options are severely limited so a pre-emergence application of Avadex could be a useful option.