Well it is mid-March and as I write this article, flurries of snow are passing my window!

The welcome dry spell has allowed quite a lot of field work and drilling to occur, at least on the lighter soil types. Heavy land needed at least another week of dry weather before meaningful progress could have been made.

Unfortunately this dry spell was accompanied by very cold winds, which have set crops back. Some of the poorer rape crops now look worryingly thin and will need all the help they can get if acceptable yields are to be achieved.  On small backward crops a higher proportion of the total nitrogen should be applied early to stimulate canopy growth. I will be using a trace element mix plus some foliar phosphite to try to encourage rapid canopy expansion once temperatures eventually do warm up.

Most crops that had active phoma have now had a fungicide, but quite a large area of my rape has been devastated by pigeons and at the moment has little if any leaf. Pigeon pressure has eased in the last few days so hopefully these crops will produces some fresh leaves shortly.

Most of the spring barley drilled so far has gone into reasonable seed-beds.  I would have liked the soil temperature to have been higher and the last thing we need now is a deluge of rain on these cold soils before emergence. Pre-emergence sprays using a mix of Defy (prosulfocarb) and Stomp (pendimethalin) will be applied very shortly where needed.

A large proportion of wheat and barley crops are looking thin with a sub optimal number of tillers. This will be more of an issue with barley, which has far less ability to compensate.

Again a higher proportion of the nitrogen should be applied early on these crops and I will be using a phosphite trace element and growth regulator mix shortly. The aim of this is to suppress apical dominance with the growth regulator. The foliar phosphite and trace element mix will help improve plant vigour and encouraging rooting and this is an approach I have used to good effect in past years on backward, thin crops.