Ground conditions: Most areas have had at least an inch of rain so far in 2022, except for the stations around Dublin which were lower.

But contrast that with Stephen Robb’s country, where Malin Head Met station has already had over three inches of rain.

Ground conditions are not that important for the moment, as long as we are not seeing ponding in fields which would damage well-established crops.

There is already an amount of ploughing done but obviously a good bit more to do when conditions allow.

What is of note though is that soil temperatures and air temperatures were 1-2°C higher in December than in the same month last year and this seems to be continuing into January.

This means that we are likely to see slightly more disease development and the handbrake has been pulled less tight on aphid multiplication.

This does not mean that there is an issue, but we need to remain slightly more aware of it than in the cold spring of last year.

Aphids and BYDV: The recent cold snap can be regarded as healthy and timely, but the bulk of the winter so far has been relatively warm and dry and we may be set to get a return to milder weather once again.

While there are unlikely to be any vernalisation issues, there may be some cause for concern over aphids and BYDV risk.

We have had relatively little frost and warmer air and soil temperatures through November and December so we need to keep an eye out for aphids and take Teagasc advice on board. However, the very high-risk areas of the country need to be that bit more vigilant.

While infection may already have occurred, the real challenge is to prevent it spreading from a single infected plant.

Soil testing: Get any remaining soil test samples taken as soon as possible to have results back in time for spring fertilisation.

This is important for all fields but even more for the fields you do not know or ones that have not been performing.

Soil samples are a good investment and they should be used to help differentiate between good and poor areas of fields. Do not skimp on the number you are taking but use known field variability to form a soil test zone. You must have a test result for every 4-5ha anyway so locate them to best advantage.

Areas of lighter soil tend to be less good at holding nutrients as they have lower clay content and these can pull down field averages to give rise to higher recommendations.

You know your fields best so sample them based on known variability.

Soil test results are only as good as how they are taken and how representative they are of different parts of your fields.

It should also be remembered that a soil test result is needed to guide your nutrient allowances (see tillage pages) and that a soil test result must be no more than four years old to be valid.