What a difference a month makes. While the dust is not exactly flying in the Weald, seed-beds for both spring beans and spring barley are generally excellent with plenty of moisture. Downland farmers, however, will welcome recent showers. Soil temperatures are hovering around eight degrees, encouraging rapid germination.

In winter cereals, soils remain tacky and losses due to water logging are in the region of 4% locally. Soils with reasonable levels of organic matter serve to demonstrate just how beneficial this can be to improve plant health. In these situations of improved water infiltration and higher available nutrient levels, I have seen cereals at GS 31. Timely applied autumn pre em’s have worked well this season. Black grass remains the key target in quite a few situations.

Oilseed rape has bolted and is rapidly coming in to flower with generally low levels of pollen beetle at the moment. Relatively open crops have the benefit of allowing maximum light penetration to developing side branches.

The first nitrogen dressings have now been completed and we are now pushing on with T0s, with the high levels of Septoria and yellow rust still being found on susceptible varieties are key targets. Forward crops will shortly receive a fungicide mix containing various combinations of chlorothalanil, tebuconazole, fenpropidin, folpet, prochloraz and a plant growth regulator (PGR). Tissue sampling now will allow further timely nutrition to be combined with the T1.

Finally, under sowing has for years been a reliable means of establishing grass or forage crops and this year I will be looking at trials establishing a range of cover crops under sown. The aim to establish  these cover crops in the base of the cash crop in readiness to intercept maximum solar radiation once the preceding crop is harvested. This hopefully results in maximised biomass yields and nutrient cycling!