Ground conditions: It has been a partly broken week but rainfall amounts have not been excessive in many areas, except for the west/northwest and parts of the south which got between 25mm and 60mm in the seven days up to the start of this week.

This time most of the eastern side escaped the worst of the recent rain except for the southeast corner and inland towards Mullingar.

This means that planting is ongoing in many areas but really only getting going in earnest this week in the south.

Herbicides: Most of the effective grass and broadleaved herbicides need to be applied pre-emergence so this needs to be done now once fields are sown.

Use the odd break in the weather to get out with the sprayer and get herbicides applied. Products like Firebird and Flight will provide the main actives in most fields but some may need additional diflufenican or pendimethalin added. These pre-emergence sprays are best applied before weed emergence.

Winter rape: Examine early sown crops for the presence of downy mildew, light leafspot (LLS) or phoma. Treatment of downy mildew is only likely to be warranted on later crops. Treatment of phoma or LLS may be warranted if at least 25% of plants show 20% infection. This threshold should be higher when plants get bigger but the converse is probably also true.

Products like Fezan, Proline, Magnello or Prosaro might be used if disease levels warrant treatment. Some of these also act as growth regulators, which might be useful in advanced crops but not on more backward ones, or only at low rates to minimise the PGR effect. The minimum rate for disease control will be half label rate and higher rates give more growth regulation.

Very forward crops at the four- to six-leaf stage and free of disease may benefit from growth regulation. This can be done using Caryx at up to 1.4l/ha as a single dose or around half of that if a spring application is also contemplated.

Juventus might also be used at 0.4-0.6l/ha as a fungicide and stronger growth regulator. The general rate recommendation is for 0.08l/ha per leaf present based on average crop size. So, the rate for a six-leaf crop is 0.08 x 6 = 0.48l/ha.

Planting: Continue planting but increase seeding rates if seedbed conditions deteriorate. Soil temperatures remain 1-2°C above normal and this should help for the time being.

Get the most difficult fields sown first to give them the best chance. Easier ground can be planted later into the season.

Seed rate for wheat might be in the 250-280 seeds/m2 range or 125-140kg/ha (8-10 st/ac) for 50g seed where conditions are good.

For winter barley, push towards 350-380 seeds/m2 with 175-190 kg/ha (11-12 st/ac) for 50g seed. Oat planting will be getting under way at similar seed targets, planting 140-155 kg/ha (9-10 st/ac) for 40g seed.

Smaller seed means less weight per hectare for any given seed population. Roll post sowing where possible.