Winter crops are well established and given the very mild conditions that have prevailed since my last report at the end of November, most crops have continued to grow on slowly. I really ought to get out my soil thermometers to check what is going on under the surface. Mind you, with the extremely wet weather that we have had since the turn of the year it will be impossible for tractors and fertiliser spreaders to travel on fields, even if it was appropriate to do so.
Some of the crops in the Howe of Strathmore have been under water for a couple of weeks (see below). It remains to seen how well these areas recover. Thankfully, well established crops will have taken up a useful quantity of nitrogen which will reduce the pressure for an early application of N. Certainly many winter barley fields with a high tiller count will have to be handled with care in respect of early nitrogen and growth regulation.
Early disease control is going to be the order of the day in cereals as, having had no cold weather to speak of, there has been quite a carry over from autumn. Mildew, Rhynchosporium and net blotch are present at low levels in barley and septoria can be found in wheat. T0 sprays will definitely feature as part of the fungicide planning for this season. A robust crop protection programme will be vital in maintaining the yield potential created by the excellent autumn establishment of most crops.
Older leaves in oilseed rape fields are dying back and new leaves are emerging. These will be an attraction to pigeons, which should be deterred by all possible means. Most crops have got a good root system which will be ideal for intercepting plant nutrients. Autumn fungicide sprays appear to have been effective at keeping light leaf spot at bay.
With soils currently water logged I don’t think that many folk are thinking about weed control. However, I wonder if the wet weather and the relatively warm soils will affect the persistence of residual herbicides applied in the autumn at reduced rates. No doubt we will find out in due course.