Despite all the rain we are in a better place than last year.  Large areas of cereal and rape crops are well established – with good canopies. There has been localised flooding along the Rivers Severn and Avon, but thankfully nothing like the conditions being suffered further south. Late drilled wheats are peeking through, and we are still hopeful that most will survive the sodden conditions.  Compacted and poorly drained areas could already be lost.  It is concerning that there has been no chance to complete outstanding blackgrass and BYDV treatments.

Crops are surprisingly green, presumably because of above-average soil temperatures.  Crop canopies have already taken in substantial amounts of nitrogen , but with high rainfall we predict that soil N levels will very low this spring. Tools such as soil N testing and canopy apps can assist the use RB 209 and ‘gut feeling’  in making nitrogen recommendations this spring.

The yellow rust treat to winter wheat  is still present. We knew that it was a gamble to grow Solstice again on farms where it performed well previously – but seed dressings have helped. It is more disappointing to see yellow rust in newer varieties, such as Kielder, in their first year for many farmers. Those who have stuck with older, maybe slightly lower yielding, varieties such as Scout may be feeling smug.

Just as with blackgrass herbicide mixes, we will need to ‘stack’ cereal fungicides this spring to maintain efficacy and to reduce resistance.  Very good SDHI chemistry is available to add to the fungicide toolbox. It could be a long season for disease control this season,  so it will be crucial to choose the most suitable programmes.

Lastly, after 4 years of box ticking , does anyone else agree that DEFRA should review the benefits of continuing with the current annual Soil Protection Review document ?