So, here we are again, the years seem to go by so quickly the older I get! Clients in Cheshire have been planting for over a week now, in to pretty good conditions, particularly behind grass where the organic matter from the root mass keeps the soil open and friable.

I think that the use of organic matter, be it in the form of farm yard manure, green cover crops or compost has a big part to play in soil management, perhaps a topic for discussion at a later date. Soil temperatures are generally below 8C, however covering with fleece within a day of planting tends to make use of any warmth from the relatively weak sun.

Over the last few years I have found that even on a dull, cold March morning the temperature under the fleece has been a good 1-2C higher than non covered crops. This increase in temperature also helps crops grow away from potential Rhizoctonia issues that may be lurking around in cold, wet soils.

Winter rainfall has been extremely variable, particularly from east to west. So far in 2011 I have recorded 68mm on the Yorkshire Wolds, whereas a client near Wigan has recorded 178mm of rain.

This has made harvesting of field stored crops a challenge, although reports suggest that the crop stored in windrows on Moss (peat) has survived the winter fairly well with up to 60% useable.

Here in the east, planning is well under way, holes have been dug to look for compaction issues, soil and PCN sample results are coming in thick and fast and seed is arriving on farm. I am still somewhat surprised that many PCN results do NOT include speciation.

In the interest of Integrated Crop Management and the PCN Directive how are growers supposed to make decisions on treatment and the use of resistant/tolerant varieties if speciation is not done? Perhaps, with the PCN Directive in mind labs should be encouraged to offer speciation as a matter of course.