Hardy weather: Most tillage areas had a slightly wetter year in 2020 compared with the 30-year average. For most areas, this was between 50mm and 100mm, but the northwest (Malin Head) and Cork airport were closer to 200mm above their 30-year average. The only stations that were below average were Dublin airport and Phoenix Park.

February was one of the wettest months of the year in most areas. In general, four of the first six months of 2020 were drier than normal, while four of the last six months were wetter than normal. The specific month depended on the location. The weather has moved to being on the hardy side so far in this new year. It may be too late to remind you about having anti-freeze in all water-cooled engines and sprayers, but if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to do it now.

Wet ground is keeping machinery off land, but frozen ground may provide some opportunity to get some weed spraying done. Check the labels on the products you intend to use to make sure they are not adversely impacted by frosty conditions. Some growers with bulky catch crops might consider rolling them during a heavy frost as a way of killing the vegetation present. The crop needs to be well frozen to be killed and some species will be killed by the frost even without rolling. There is more advice on this on page 35.

Crop condition: Crops are generally in good condition – very different to this time last year when patchiness was a feature of most crops and many stubbles were left unsown. Some of the earliest sown crops are quite bulky and forward, but even the later-sown crops have established well.

Ploughing: There is ploughing taking place where land is dry enough. It is always good to have an amount of work done ahead of the spring rush, but be careful about where you plough. It is always best to have vegetation present for as long as possible to help protect the soil. Think twice about ploughing up and down hills, especially on poorly structured land that is prone to water erosion. If possible, consider ploughing across hills to reduce the risk of water gaining speed to wash away soil.

Nitrates and agchem: If you haven’t already done so, use these next few weeks to get your pesticide records for 2020 and your nitrogen and phosphate requirements for 2021 in order. These are essential records for cross compliance and need to be completed to help avoid future problems.

Weed control: There may be opportunities on frozen or dry ground to get some herbicides out on winter crops in the coming weeks. This is certainly a good time to get any remaining Kerb-based products like Kerb Flo or Astrokerb herbicides out on winter rape crops.

Recommended list: The 2021 recommended list of spring cereals is just out. The only new variety recommended is Hexham spring wheat.