All the seed is in the ground and its game-on. Bring on the warmth and nice soft rain.
Established crops are greening already, but have a long way to go to make up. Soils have been hovering around a miserable 4C for long enough, but should now move up steadily.
Some of the winter wheat sown at the end of February is now through, after six weeks – it’s had plenty of vernalisation already. These crops will inevitably end up ahead of some of the very poor winter wheats sown in October & November.
Our oilseed rape crops were only one-third sown in autumn – and over half of what was sown has failed. This last fortnight has seen daily decisions to rip up yet more fields which would surely have made it if the weather had been kind.
That leaves us with a small rump of very poor crops that are very backward. They need nursing along with weed control, fertilisers, manganese & boron. Once they have some leaves on, we might even think about some disease control.
The few winter wheat crops in reasonable order are about to receive a dose of herbicide; some cheap fungicide and even a bit of chlormequat, mainly for tillering. Until we can see that they look like real crops and are responding properly, we’re not going to waste any serious money on them.
No farmer should be throwing money at crops which look so poor. It’s a time of sow’s ears, not silk purses. All we want at the moment is more tillers and that’s where all the current treatments and nitrogen are targeted. Sorry, Mr Ag-chem Supplier; you’re going to have a pretty lean year.
Despite all the problems, we’ve actually seen little expansion in areas of beans or spring oilseed rape. The few bits of spring rape and peas that we do have are yet to be sown.
Spring sowings are mainly barley, oats and (where the markets exist) forage maize. Its clear that there will be great demand for maize this time and we’ll be doing what we can to satisfy some of it, providing the money is right. If dairy farmers were willing to commit, we could grow a whole lot more. Maize drilling will commence this week providing soils reach 8C.
Spring barley and oats are all now emerging. No pre-emergence herbicides have been applied; we’ll try to get any outstanding rolling complete at full emergence prior to herbicides and manganese at the three-leaf stage.
Barleys will have treatments that include some basic control of meadowgrass, while oats will receive whatever is legal and effective. Once they reach mid-tillering, low doses of mildew controls will start to be applied.