Crops generally look well and it is pleasing to see less field ponding this winter, a sign that soil structure problems were corrected last autumn. With limited opportunities to apply the autumn spray programmes it is now a case of readjusting plans where products were not able to be applied as intended.
Blackgrass control appears good where pre-ems followed by Atlantis mixes were applied pre-christmas. However, I estimate only around 25% of intended Atlantis was applied. As a result there are some well tillered blackgrass populations to control this spring, and with wet soils and low soil temperatures, it will be a while before conditions are suitable for spring Atlantis. The same is true for brome control as many of the sulphonylurea herbicides require warmer conditions than we have now.
Annual broad-leaved weeds and meadowgrasses have been well controlled by autumn residual herbicide mixes. Where fields have not been treated it will be a case of moving towards products with more contact activity.
There is plenty of Septoria tritici on the lower leaves of wheat and mildew has been checked but not totally killed by the cold snap which is probably due to the blanket effect of the recent snow. For many wheat crops on the heavier land they are likely to need some early nitrogen to promote tiller development, as plant populations are generally lower than planned due to delayed emergence from the dry soils at drilling. However, it is still too early to apply nitrogen yet as crop growth has barely begun.
With poor feed barley prospects and non-existent malting demand it is difficult to get enthused about winter barley at present. At least crops look well and full of yield potential despite their characteristic yellowing from the cold weather and wet feet.
Oilseed rape looks well when not being attacked from all angles by pigeons. Crops need assessing to see if troublesome weeds such as cleavers, thistles and mayweeds need controlling this spring. Where no autumn fungicide was able to be applied then it is now too late for phoma control. However, attention should move to light leaf spot as it is easy to find and although it never looks that bad at this time of year, the yield losses can be severe. Therefore, pay careful attention and if required treat with a fungicide sooner rather than later.