Not spring yet: Most areas of the country except for the south east corner were quite dry over the past week but that may change in the coming week. There were some really nice days with heat and drying combined but they were also crisp with cold nights. Together these conditions helped to keep growth nice and slow for the time of year.

There are bits of planting being done and it is great to see some work being done in good conditions.

We are now in the time for basic fertiliser application, with quite a bit going on around the country. Let’s hope that there will not be too much rain in the coming days.

Basic fertiliser: Get N, P and K applied to all winter crops as soon as possible. Don’t forget the sulphur to help make the best use of nitrogen, especially on lighter worn ground. Have a second plan for this in case the product you normally use is not available.

Sulphur might not be needed on fresh ground if we see an expansion in the area sown to spring cereals this year but it is important on land that has been tilling for some time.

The only exception would be on worn land that has received plenty organic matter in recent years, either through organic manures or catch crops. Target 15kg S/ha on cereals and 30kg on rape.

P and K application should be guided by soil test results. As things stand, fertiliser prices may not be much different for the next year so this is not the time for a fertiliser holiday if you are looking long term.

You could pull back 15-20% on the recommended rates on Index 3 soils but try and stay with the rate required for offtake on Index 2 fields. It would be better to get the recommended rates applied to Index 1 fields, but will they carry all the costs?

Nitrogen had the biggest price increases so that needs more thought. The optimum rate will be lower than in recent years because the N is so much more expensive. But what will the price of grain be?

There are a lot of uncertainties out there so it is important to not find yourself over exposed on fertiliser spend. A standard Index 3 recommendation for an 11t/ha winter wheat or barley crop (straw removed) is 42kg P and 108kg K/ha. If N is reduced slightly, these rates might be pulled back to 33kg and 85kg respectively.

Spring crops: Beans, spring wheat and oats remain the priority. This becomes malting barley if these crops are not being sown. Where possible, use a combine drill to help make best use of limited seedbed fertiliser.

This can also be used as a way to save a little on P and K rate and cost. But there is less potential to save on N for spring crops and probably none on malting barley. Make sure that soil pH is adequate on all land farmed.

Aim to plant spring wheat at about 320 seeds/m2 or 160kg/ha with 45g TGW seed. Drill barley at 350 seeds/m2 or 160 kg/ha for 45g seed. Target oats at about 350 seeds/m2 or 125 kg/ha with 35g seed.