North: Soils are still sodden

At most seminars in the past month or so there has been time allocated to discuss soil remediation. In every instance the key to this has been that the ground should be dry!


With the October to December rainfall at 30% above the 30 year average on top of the rest of the 2012 deluge and January not much better, therein lies the problem. For some situations a bit of strategic fallowing may be the most sensible economic option.


A potato grower is reputed to have said of a difficult field that he would pay the rent, not plant a crop and he would be financially better off!! Food for thought as there are some tricky decisions to be made. Mind you, in many situations if you take a spade out with you and dig down, the soil below the welly boot depth of sludge is surprisingly dry. The conundrum is how to work the slurry on top into a sensible growth medium.


In my last musing I had suggested that some of the wheat seed still in the shed could very well get sown. That has not happened so the acreage of wheat is well down. Wheat in the ground has come though the “winter” surprisingly well. Growth stages vary from just about to emerge to well established.


Herbicides that were applied have been effective although most crops are unsprayed. In general the main weed problem will be annual meadow grass. Populations range from none to a reasonable level on the point of tillering. The latter situation will be the priority for treatment. Early control is always the most effective.

Winter barleys are looking greener than I would have expected at this time of year. Either they have not started to draw on nitrogen reserves or there is more mineralisation of soil nitrogen going on due to the fact that the soil temperatures are not as low as usual. Oilseed rape crops are smaller than I can ever remember.


Having said that, those that have escaped the slug onslaught are appreciating the fact that we have had little frost in the past couple of months. Plant numbers are, in general, reasonable and knowing how rape can baffle our attempts to define the characteristics of high yield this may turn out to be a bumper year. Remind me in August!!


Disease levels are generally low in all crops and with 15 February approaching, nitrogen applications are the main priority. As most crops are very backward, little and often in the early stages will be the key to efficient uptake and will minimise the risk of leaching or run-off.


Getting onto the ground in the first instance will be the problem. Those crops where the sprayer has already run through will probably be okay as the tramlines will be fit to carry but woe betide if you slip off. Foliar nutrients will have a greater part to play this year in extracting yield out of most these backward crops with restricted root systems.

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