For many farmers the last nine months has been the most difficult period ever. The relentless rain and lack of field work causing extreme distress and worry. After correcting my customers cropping records I can confirm that only 75% of the oilseed rape area that entered the winter has survived and that only 55% of the planned wheat acreage ever got drilled, and some of this looks very poor. The financial implications of this have yet to be fully felt and the weather in the next eight weeks will determine how acute the pain is.
If it is any consolation the weather forecast for the next 10 days at least looks largely dry, but it will take a lot more dry weather than this to allow spring drilling on the majority of fields in my area.
Herbicide programmes are in tatters, but levels of blackgrass in the wheat that was drilled and sprayed with a pre-emergence spray are very low, septoria levels on the lower leaves are also very low, so that is at least some consolation. Temperatures are forecast to be around freezing for the next 10 days, so control of any surviving blackgrass will have to wait for a while yet.
Realistically, with the exception of light land, no drilling will be done before the middle of February which rules out most wheat varieties. Most of the area due to go into wheat will now go into spring barley, but I fear some of the heavier, low lying silty clays will not dry out and that fallow may be the best and only option.
There are signs of phoma coming back into rape crops, which will require a fungicide as soon as conditions allow. The more resistant varieties like DK Extrovert certainly stand out as being clean in comparison to the likes of PR46W21.
Finally with a lot of small rape canopies, and struggling poorly tillered cereals, thoughts are turning to early nitrogen applications. With soils at field capacity, and given the early timing, care will be needed and applications should be limited to 40kg/ha to minimize the risk of significant leaching.