What a difference three weeks can make. Planting conditions are now ideal and even a morning of persistent drizzle east of the Pennines has had little effect other than to soften a few clods. Having said all that, the village where I live on the Yorkshire Wolds has just been flooded out with 19mm in an hour. At least this will encourage the weeds to grow!North of England Potato field 2010 006.jpg

Soil temperatures will hopefully rise steadily from now on, having seen them vary from 5C to 17C, depending on the time of day.

My clients in Cheshire have all finished planting now with crops of Maris Bard and Accord under fleece now fully emerged and growing quickly. Soil temperatures under fleece, even on a dull day start off at least 2C higher than open ground crops.  I always try to encourage them to cover with fleece as early as possible to keep soil temperatures up helping them grow away from rhizoctonia stem canker problems.Planting in Lancashire started three weeks ago and conditions have remained favourable with generally very good soil conditions. It seems very strange however that when driving round I see one field being planted and the next field along has still to be harvested. The ones field stored in deep ridges seem to be fine although sprouting will be an issue, but the ones in ridges will probably have succumbed to the frost.North of England Potato field 2010 023.jpg

My thoughts are now turning towards the weed control challenge which lies ahead. The weeds that I find most difficult to get on top of are knotgrass and black bindweed, especially if there is a late flush due to dry or cold conditions. Most of my herbicide programmes are based around Metribuzin at varying rates, depending on variety, along with a number of partner products, depending on expected weed spectrum.