Progress with spring work is slow as weather and pests take their toll
Progress with spring work is slow. That said, most of the lighter and medium-type soils have been ploughed and we are now waiting for conditions to come right on the heavier soils.
Some sowing of winter and spring wheat, spring oats and barley took place during the last few days of February and into early March. Those crops have chatted and some are beginning to emerge. They have been targeted by crows but the battle to keep them out is ongoing.
Even the crows found the harsh weather of last week too much and confined their activities to the more sheltered areas of fields. That, of course, aggravates the problem for farmers as feeding confined to specific areas results in large bare patches.
Current seed dressing provides little deterrent to crows. So, apart from bird scaring devices and shooting, the only option open to farmers is either sowing to a depth of 5cm or delaying sowing until soil temperatures improve resulting in faster emergence.
Sowing into cold soils and indeed deeper sowing results in slow emergence and will leave the emerging crop exposed for a longer period to seeding blight from fusarium and microdochium.
This will put increased pressure on the seed dressings and obviously present a greater risk if the seed dressing was not applied evenly. Therefore, take extra caution and delay sowing if you attempted to dress seed yourself.
It is late now to sow spring wheat, oats or beans. Spring oilseed rape yield potential also suffers as sowings go into April. That said, "farming by calendar" is not always reliable. I will always remember advising a farmer in 1986 not to sow spring wheat in May. He ignored my advice and harvested in October, under lovely weather conditions, over 3t/ac at 78- 80 bushel after everyone else had struggled through a difficult harvest in August and September.
Spring crops sown in ley must be managed carefully. Potash levels are generally low and frequently crops will turn virtually white due to lack of potash. Leather jackets and wireworm are the other major risk factors. I was surprised last autumn with the number of 'daddy longlegs' that were caught in the aphid sticky traps.