Until the rain came two weeks ago, there wasn’t a single crop, spring or winter, that wasn’t showing some sign of stress. The winter cereals were yellowing from the impact of the frosty nights following the T0 applications as well as nitrogen deficiency due to the lack of soil moisture reducing the availability of the recent nitrogen applications. The winter beans were wilted and buckled from a combination of the drought and the frosty nights as stems started to extend. The spring crops were emerging unevenly depending on seed depth, soil type and available moisture.

Having now had over 40mm of rain in the first 10 days of May the story has changed dramatically. Crops have gone from a light green with hints of yellow, to a much darker green as they have suddenly been hit with a big dose of nitrogen that has been on the surface waiting to be washed in. Although the winter cereals are now looking a lot better as result of the rain, I am a little concerned of what the impact of the dry April will be on yield potential. I have not adjusted forecast yields to account for this and was a few days of making an attempt to account for it before the rain came and I decided to hold off. It’s not too difficult to imagine that any stress a crop encounters during the growing season is going to have a detrimental impact on yield potential, but what the scale of it is is too difficult to forecast at this stage, with so much of the critical yield building development still ahead.

Whilst crops were largely clean, especially from Septoria, at the end of April, the conditions so far in May will no doubt change the picture significantly. T1 spends on the wheat have been reduced according to variety, drilling date and existing disease levels and as the showers keep coming on almost a daily basis, it starts to put a bit of doubt in the mind; however, with the way the spring has gone, the gap between T1 and T2 for some varieties will be relatively short, so this is unlikely to be too great a concern.

Grass weed control has been pretty good on the whole this year, however some plants that had escaped the pre-ems in the autumn are starting to become more obvious. If the tillering capacity of blackgrass could be harnessed for winter cereal crops, I am sure it would be a massive boost for any late drilled crops! With the move towards lower cultivations, it is evident that brome is becoming more of a challenge, particularly in winter barley. The cold conditions this spring have also not been conducive for optimal brome control in the wheat, as plants weren’t actively growing around the time of application.

The dry conditions through April have made arable operations less challenging than expected, with plenty of dry and still days to get fieldwork up to date. It has created some more challenges for the stewardship work however, as establishing small seeds that need to be close to the surface were likely to be a challenge when the soil was as cold and dry as it has been. The pollen and nectar plots went in at the end of the month, followed by a decent rain, so with soil temperatures now on the rise, these should be alright. Not all of the winter bird food plots have yet been drilled, choosing to delay this until better conditions, but we are now struggling to get the required gap between showers to drill and roll them.