Crops are taking shape at last and we’re pushing plenty more nitrogen on them now to ensure that growth is not compromised. With a late spring, we need to maximise growth rates and soil N residues are clearly not generous. Drilling has been delayed by untimely rain; Cheshire is now mostly complete, but Lancashire has yet to catch up, especially with sowings of spring beans and oats – mainly on heavier soils.

Oilseed rape is coming into full flower this week and pollen beetles are not a problem in most crops; only on the few backward pigeon-bitten ones are we likely to resort to insecticide control. Strong and forward crops are growing very quickly and uniformly and disease levels are low. Stay on standby for Scletotinia control and make the first applications mid-flowering at the latest.

Barleys still have high disease levels, including brown rust on older leaves in Volume, so T1 doses will be applied this week and must include rust-busters. The dark arts of growth regulators are also needed, with modest doses of Canopy to ensure crops stay upright.

On wheats, it was a long stand-off with the complex grass-killing herbicides until it was finally warm enough last week and the majority that was necessary has now been done. However, most crops are clear of grassweeds and so the herbicides will be included at T1 with rates just enough to do the job.

In contrast, fungicide doses should be robust on all the dirtier varieties, given the high levels of disease. After slow growth in March and delayed T0 applications, most of the T1 will not be due until after next weekend; 20 April onwards. That should hopefully mean we can hit T2 on schedule at three weeks in mid-May.

Winter oats have been sluggish so far and disease levels are variable, including some crown rust, but mostly on older leaves. There is minimal weed control required after excellent autumn control. I thought £15 /ha on autumn weeds was fair value, but we obviously over-spent! Many crops will receive their first fungicide and some growth regulator this week, but we’ll hold off giving them more nitrogen for some while yet.