The mild autumn has meant that crops have continued to grow, which has been a huge relief where crops were starved of moisture until rain arrived around the 3rd week October and did not emerge until that point. It has also allowed the very backward rape crops to get to the advanced stage of 4 true leaves and pretty much all germinate!

Ground conditions are very good as, in fairness, it has to date been relatively dry since the first rainfall of October. We have had somewhere in the region of 5″ of rainfall since that point.

We had our first taste of winter three weeks ago, with a four day run of temperatures down as low as -5C. Frosts are forecast for most of this week as well. The good field conditions has meant clients have started to apply P&K where required. With the warm winter some wild oats are already 8-10″ tall and I have been finding spring germinating wild oats for the last 2-3 weeks.

Winter barley crops are very forward and some were treated with a mildewicide late November/early December, along with manganese, due to the extreme levels of mildew. Frost has now quietened the mildew down on untreated crops and if we have a cold February then I suspect we may well hold off until T1. I will monitor dependent upon weather conditions. Crops treated with manganese in the late autumn have as yet not required a follow up treatment and untreated crops are OK to date.

Open oilseed rape crops that were big enough were treated with carbetamide pre-Christmas.  Remaining crops that are more forward have opened up since the frosts which has allowed more to be done and I am sure that another cold week will allow us to finish off the remaining crops.

I have yet to see any major issues with pigeons, which again has been a real blessing where crops emerged late and are small. I am convinced that the pigeons would have been the final straw for some crops.

There are no major issues with light leaf spot as yet, although odd lesions are starting to be found. Charlock has taken a bit of a hit with the first frosts BUT need more to continue the good work. I have more fields with shepherds purse and hedge mustard than ever before, which as far as shepherds purse is concerned, means more clomazone pre-em on crops going in this autumn. Where controlling cranesbill with Fox (bifenox) I am led to believe that there will be some activity on these weeds as well as charlock, particularly once the charlock has been opened up by the frost. Remember that Fox needs specific off label approval documentation and is at growers’ own risk.

Late germinating winter wheat crops are at the 1 tiller stage (sown 1st week September). Late sown crops after beet are at the 3-4 leaf stage. Where crops had moisture early on, they are very forward with up to seven tillers on them.

Mildew levels are similar to the barley. Being pretty rampant pre-new year, particularly Solstice and Oakley, but are now looking significantly cleaner albeit with quite a lot of dead leaves in the bottom of the crop. As yet I have not found any yellow rust in either of these two varieties and I have had a GOOD look, not ‘just over the hedge’!

If conditions are suitable in early March I will be tempted to apply Atlantis (iodosulfuron+mesosulfuron)/Broadway Star (florasulam+pyroxsulam) at this point due to much earlier germination of target weeds.

My biggest concern at the moment is whether I am going to need to apply an aphicide to my deter dressed crops based upon the unusually mild conditions to date. I have had to apply manganese to quite a few light land crops in early January which is not the norm and may well have to treat in February, dependent on growing conditions.