New year again: As December 2021 slips into the annals of history, let us hope for a repeat of 2021 or even better.

That looks quite unlikely at this point but who knows.

Can we begin by wishing all our readers a happy and successful new year.

I note that this time last year I wished for that elusive combination of good yields and good prices and we got them, plus the weather, for most of the year.

That trinity is even more elusive and the ultimate wish.

Records: As suggested previously, you might use this time to get all your records up to date.

In particular, this means your spray and fertiliser records. These are important items to have right for cross-compliance so do a cross-check or two to make sure that they tally correctly.

Planning ahead: This is not a bad time to take stock of how things are shaping up for the year ahead. Cost increases seem inevitable but you should always ask what you can do about each individual one. Do I need that specific input in every field? Not applying it in one field could help offset the increased cost in some others.

The most basic question is what to grow for 2022. This is already partially decided where there are winter crops in the ground but what spring crops are likely to make most sense?

Be guided to some degree by post-harvest price levels. This may not be where they finish up but they do provide some guidance if you lock in some product at that price.

The futures market provides reasonable guidance for many crops. Dry wheat for next harvest is currently around €255/t with barley at €245/t by default. Dry rape is about €565/t which certainly helps the economics of spring oilseed rape.

Beans are more awkward to price but it will have a much lower fertiliser cost increase.

The same is true for peas for those who have this crop as a realistic option. If you did not grow these crops previously, their zero N requirement can be very useful to decrease your total fertiliser bill.

There might also be fodder crop options for 2022 if there is to be less silage made. But make sure there is a market for such crops before deciding to grow them. They are often not good speculative options.

Rotation: Don’t just plan the crop – plan the rotation. Think of this in terms of possibly using rotation as an eco-scheme option for 2023. Plan to have crops in blocks of land for ease of management. Every decision has a potential consequence so talk them through with someone.

Think of rotational crops in terms of workload at harvest if we will have to cultivate all ground post-harvest.

Ploughing: There has been a lot of ploughing done for spring crops and there is a lot more to do. Ground conditions may not always be good enough so don’t plough if this is the case. It is always sensible to use a furrow press when ploughing at this time of year as it can help to get you on to that ground earlier in spring.