The last few weeks have been extremely frustrating. Cold and frequent spells of rain, some of which have been heavy, have caused backlogs to spring drilling as well as spraying and fertilising operations. Ever since early November it feels like we have been playing catch up, but never quite getting up to date. Hopefully the weather will soon settle down to give a dry spell so that these backlogs can get cleared.

The last month has been cold so crop growth has been very slow, typified by oilseed rape, which has started flowering yet is barely knee high. Spring crops drilled just prior to Easter have also been slow to emerge, taking over three weeks to appear.

Most winter wheat is now at GS30/31 and growth regulators are being applied along with T0 fungicides where necessary. Yellow rust is reappearing now and is easy to find in susceptible varieties on land nearest the coast.

With delays applying contact acting herbicides such as Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) or Broadway Star (florasulam + pyroxsulam) it means there are going to be some tight intervals between spraying the T0 and T1 fungicides. However, having tighter intervals between fungicide applications is better than having large gaps.

Winter barley T1 fungicides are currently being applied with some broad-leaved weeds such as cleavers and charlock being controlled at the same time. Some T0 fungicides were applied recently to winter barley crops. If ever a T0 fungicide was going to give a good financial return then it could be this year, with disease pressure being very high coming out of winter followed by a wet spring to date.

The most advanced oilseed rape crops are just beginning to start flowering, with the majority of crops still at the green bud stage. Only an odd pollen beetle has been brave enough to venture into crops so far, with their colleagues sheltering with their fleeces on due to conditions being so cold. However, a spell of warm weather can soon change matters, so later sown crops or those which suffered heavy pigeon grazing will still be at risk for some time.

Cabbage stem flea beetle larvae are evident in all crops, the numbers varying significantly from field to field. Apart from an odd exception most crops appear to be growing well without obvious restriction caused by the larvae.

Winter beans look well and have managed to cope amazingly well despite some prolonged water logging in some cases. Chocolate spot levels are very high so a robust fungicide program will be required. In the meantime it is going to be a challenge to apply products containing bentazone in time to control weeds such as oilseed rape and charlock as flower buds will soon be visible. Spring beans are just beginning to emerge so it will be a case of looking out for signs of pea and bean weevil damage, which appears as U-shaped notches around the edge of the leaf.