Ground conditions: Most areas have got enough rain already in January to keep them off the land for a week or so while parts of the country remain relatively dry so far. There has been some ploughing done but some of it in questionable conditions. If you are making muck when ploughing, you can be doing more harm than good.

Aphids and BYDV: The recent cold snap can be regarded as healthy and timely winter weather. It will certainly leave no vernalisation concerns with winter varieties but there may be concerns about plant kill. It is also likely to lower overall BYDV risk, both in winter and early spring crops.

However, it is important to remember that air temperatures would have to drop to around -8°C to kill the grain aphids which transmit virus. A sudden frost might catch a proportion of them but they will always tend to migrate down into the soil for protection if they are given advanced warning of a temperature drop.

So while risk may be low, crops in very high-risk situations are always a worry. Infection may already be in place but it will not be expanding or spreading when conditions do not suit aphid feeding or multiplication.

Soil testing: Get any remaining soil test samples taken as soon as possible. This is important for all fields but more so for the field you do not know or one that has not been performing. Soil samples are a good investment and they should be used to help differentiate between good and poor areas of fields. Lighter patches of soil tend to be less good at holding nutrients and these can pull down field averages and result in higher field recommendations.

Soil test results are only as good as how they are taken, so sample known variability specifically. Remember, you need a sample for every 5ha farmed and a result must be no more than four years old to be valid.

Markets: Grain markets seem to be gone into a bit of a tizzy once again this week. While there is always a bit of over-reaction following market information that drives sentiment, there is growing acceptance that the total supply chain is tight for this season at least, and this is being reflected across the full spectrum of feed prices.

Futures prices have all increased substantially, especially maize and soya, following this week’s WASDE report in the US. This is now spilling over into wheat and barley but there is still a big gap between current and new-crop price levels. Either one must go down or the other must come up and this will be driven by weather and output prospects for this growing season.

But there may be forward-selling opportunities in this market uncertainty. MATIF rape for August is currently at €402/t. This price position was down in the €350s at times last year. It is being helped by high soya prices. And while lower than current prices, MATIF wheat is currently at €200/t for September to December.