BAR ODD hiccups, combinable crops on our regional representatives” farms are set to perform well if the cold, dry spell has gone for good.

Fieldwork is mostly up to date with only minor concerns, mainly linked to establishment.

SOUTH WEST

After nearly a month with no rain and low temperatures, huge differences in late sown oilseed rape canopies are making nitrogen dressings tricky for Troy Stuart and UAP agronomist Howard Moore.

For the first time they have taken samples to assess the N in the crop to guide applications. “We”re seeing variations from 30 to 120kg/ha,” says Mr Stuart.

Deep coring to determine N needs on wheat after grain maize is also planned.

SOUTH

Prolonged dry weather tempted Giles Blatchford to drill peas earlier than usual, leaving only spring rape to do towards the end of the month. “At least we were still turning up moisture.”

Dry winds have been “quite searing” on winter sowings. “I don”t think anything has suffered yet, but four more weeks without much rain would be harmful.”

Cleavers threatened to overwhelm early November-sown wheat, but Platform S (carfentrazone-ethyl + mecoprop-P) controlled them well, he notes.

EAST

First wheats emerged from winter thick and with plenty of tillers despite the cold, says Robert Stevenson. “They are quite proud, so we are delaying first nitrogen until well into April.”

Autumn weed control has been good. “We have less over-spraying to do, I think because we used more Crystal.” Follow-up treatments, with Atlantis (iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium + mesosulfuron-methyl) against blackgrass, are being confined to patches.

WEST 

The best to be said about the cold that checked crops for so long is that it helped break down ploughed land ahead of Victor bean and Spire barley sowing, says Andrew Goodman.

That eased the work for the one-pass system used by contractor Graham Whiteman, he says.

“Our winter wheat has stood still and gone back in patches. It is really highlighting different parts of fields.

“Everything is a bit late. I reckon we are two weeks behind in terms of grass growth.”

MIDLANDS

Bar a few fields hard hit by slugs after plough-based seed-beds were forced, winter wheats look “okay”, says Ben Atkinson.

Most oilseed rape is fine, again except where it was less well established, and he believes there is much more to learn about starting the crop.

“Trial and field yields are a long way apart. This isn”t the case with winter wheat. Is this because we all pay more attention to wheat?”

Spring beans have replaced abandoned sugar beet.

NORTH

Paul Temple, just back from a conference in Argentina (see next week), found crops suffering from a fortnight”s cold, miserable weather.

“It rather knocked the life out of them, but we have a good base to work with. The oilseed rape is really ready for warmer weather. Our winter barley”s a bit yellow, but that”s no concern.”

Soils wetter than first thought thwarted fieldwork and his first stab at tidying up weed control was rained off. Forage maize, replacing some vacant potato land, will be grown for the first time since 1978 to maintain his six-crop rotation.

SCOTLAND

“There”s no doubt that our winter wheat has less potential than last year,” says John Hutcheson.

After several fields were badly knocked by waterlogging, he took advice to patch them with spring varieties.

“We”ve stitched in with Shiraz and Tybalt using the Vaderstad, doing about 12ha in total.”

Scottish Agronomy says the exercise should create few management problems because the winter crop was quite late sown. The alternative was much more spring barley, an unwelcome prospect.

“On the plus side our oilseed rape looks better than for several years.”

N IRELAND

In marked contrast to the north-west of the province Clive Weir has been blessed with a useful dry spell, allowing all winter wheat and barley to be top-dressed.

“We have had some brilliant weather. Our 400 acres of Morph and Ashby spring wheat, sown to spread the harvest, is already up.”

Spring barley drilling is well under way. “I am very happy. It”s all going the way I wanted.”

andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk