With winter determined not to loosen its grip, we’re preparing for a rush of fieldwork when it does eventually warm up. Which, above all else, will mean careful prioritisation of spraying and particular care over crop safety.??

After the false dawn of February, a good 70mm of rain followed by slushy snow and a wicked wind chill in late March pushed soil temperatures back to a mere 2C. But day lengths march on. So, when things do warm up our crops will race through their growth stages.??

This means particular headaches with later-drilled wheats needing decent blackgrass control and good tiller and rooting stimulation. It’s nowhere near warm enough for contact graminicides that we would like to get on well ahead of T0 to minimise tank-mixing and crop safety issues. And by the time it is we’ll be getting seriously into peak spraying season.

??Disease control will be taking very much of a back seat here until we’ve sorted any grass weed problems. Our immediate priority will be a low temperature PGR to boost tillering, plus some phosphite for rooting and extra foliar nutrition. It won’t be the end of the world if these crops don’t get a T0 fungicide. But they’ll certainly receive a robust, more curative T1 to make up for it – plus in many cases an SDHI for its physiological, as much as disease control benefits.??

Encouraged by the cool, wet conditions, septoria isn’t hard to find on the early sown wheats. So a decently curative T0 will be our key priority here, targeting leaf 4 which will make a much bigger contribution to yield in this year’s thinner crops. It is vital that fungicide timings are targeted at correct leaf emergence, which can only be determined by dissection which we are currently doing at monitoring sites nationwide to accurately predict growth stages.

With this and memories of last season firmly in mind, where in many cases T0s were applied too early in response to the yellow rust threat, a broad spectrum septoria active triazole will be the base of our T0. As long as we have a two-week gap before T1 it’ll be worth using. After all, far better a delayed T0 than an early T1 and too big an interval before T2. ??

More than ever this season, regular field-walking and detailed fine-tuning of recommendations to suit each crop and every situation will be crucial. And with the inevitable rush of growth, splitting our PGRs between T0 and T1 will be even more important in ensuring the best crop strength.??

Stem extension fungicides for crop architecture and light leaf spot control, foliar nutrition and pollen beetle control, if necessary, are currently at the forefront of our minds for the oilseed rape that will make it this season. ??

With the unrelenting attention of the pigeons and the arctic March, though, most crops have lost rather than gained canopy over the past month. We’ve also seen worrying levels of winter kill in crops on higher and more exposed ground. In some cases they look just like they’ve been sprayed off! 

??Even now, we’re still writing off crops and scratching our heads over what to replace them with. Whatever we do, though, our priority here will be avoid anything that gets in the way of a good clean autumn wheat entry. If we’re to make up for two lean years in a row, we simply can’t afford to put 2014 yields at risk.