At last planting has got under way. Conditions in Cheshire are surprisingly good considering the amount of rain the West has had over winter.
Cover crops and using the plough to start the drying process seem to be aiding soil workability.
A check of soil temperatures in mid-March, under fleece, of a small area planted some weeks ago, recorded 8.5C with open ground at 6.5C. With reasonable sunshine along with increased day length, soils should soon warm up.
I like to get the fleece on soon after planting, leaving the ridges to settle for a couple of days then applying a residual herbicide, favouring Artist (flufenacet + metribuzin) plus pendimethalin, now linuron has gone. Remember, remaining stocks of linuron must be used by 3 June.
Where possible I like to include some metribuzin in my herbicide programmes, usually with prosulfocarb or pendimethalin, aiming to apply to moist ridges within two weeks of planting, following up with diquat and/or carfentrazone/pyraflufen just prior to emergence.
Where metribuzin cannot be used then metobromuron is preferred, although at 2.5-3 litres/ha, the rate required to be effective, is expensive.
In the north-east, soils are still very fragile, patience will be a virtue if compaction is to be avoided.
I understand planting in other parts of the country has been slow particularly in traditional early areas such as Cornwall, South Wales and Suffolk.