North: Nitrogen fertiliser applications take priority

Battered and bruised is the best description of our crops, which were all looking pretty before winter came. Now that it’s officially spring lets hope they green-up again quickly.

Soils are drying well, but have still got a way to go on heavier ground where surface ponding has only just gone. We have yet to assess just which pieces are missing, but the patches are mostly acres rather than hectares and very few pieces will be worth re-sowing.

As it comes fit, the only job in town is nitrogen fertiliser – or more specifically, nitrogen plus sulphur. All crops are in line for a starter dose enough to get them moving again. Even though some have big leaf canopies and must contain a lot of nitrogen, soil levels can only be minimal and so its essential we boost levels and sustain early growth. Wheat and barley crops need more tillers and March is critical to getting them into good shape for sustained growth throughout spring.

Crops are full of disease, but I’m not very concerned about it at this stage. When we’re caught up, we’ll start with some cheap disease control, but it isn’t going to be critical early on. Wheats may have some additional rust control early on, but not wasting a lot of money doing so.

Barleys can receive a cheap fungicide for rusts and mildew, but only once they have sparked into life; manganese early on will be more useful than throwing unnecessary fungicides at them. Some essential weed control in a few places will be required as soon as its warm enough for good activity.

Oilseed rape crops are all over the place – some have green buds showing and are already at the limit for some herbicides.  Others are still sprawled on the ground and hacked by pigeons, so we will wait until mid-month before herbicides are required. Disease levels are very variable, so don’t be tempted into wasting money where you don’t need to.

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