Helen Harris: Water hardness has a big impact on effectiveness of sprays
When spring tried to get going, it was as though Mother Nature forgot about it and moved straight into summer.
With the fantastic sunny days, the whole country seemed to come alive. I even saw a couple of lads out in shorts, in February.
Every machine that had been gathering dust all winter was out and moving. Fields were ploughed in great conditions and the only complaint was the price of seed and fertiliser.
I did hear one farmer say that there was an old Irish proverb along the lines, that if the cattle have plenty to eat in February, they will have nothing to eat in May. I wouldn't be that pessimistic, but I do realise that the winter is not over yet as we all found out last weekend, particularly in this part of the country.
It was all work with us too in the last few weeks. We had cover crops that needed spraying off and spring barley to sow. All the winter crops are looking hungry and we need to get fertiliser out.
This mild weather doesn't help with aphids either. They need to be carefully monitored as well as the warm weather diseases. I have heard that there are serious rust pressures on winter crops this year.
I went to a talk given by Whelehan Crop Protection about oats and the importance of water, when it comes to spraying. As we don't grow oats, I found it really interesting and I think we may have to look at growing oats again in the future, especially as we are now into crop rotation.
I had heard that different water can make a difference to the active ingredients but I didn't appreciate just how much difference is involved.