A dry month: April has been remarkably dry across most tillage areas of the country. The warmer weather helped growth over the past week but some later-sown spring crops have uneven establishment.

Some winter cops are showing patches in areas where soil is shallow.

It is worth noting that rainfall amounts are very close to their 30-year average for the first four months in most tillage areas.

The dry conditions are likely to induce trace element deficiencies so you may need to act to keep them away. Multi-element mixes may be preferable, perhaps with some N and P also. Manganese is the more likely problem but there are early signs of magnesium deficiency too, as well as zinc deficiency on some soils.

Winter wheat: Crops are either side of GS32 and that means T1 fungicide timing, once the third last leaf is fully emerged on the main stems. You will need to dissect the stem to check which leaf is which.

T1 fungicide options include Ascra Xpro, Elatus Era, Revystar XL, Venture Extra etc, or a prothioconazole mix with an SDHI or one of the Inatreq co-packs. Add a contact fungicide in all instances.

If previous PGR met with tough conditions, it might be necessary to consider a top-up with either Moddus, Medax Max or Terpal, if the lodging risk is deemed to be high.

Winter barley: Growth stage is very variable up to awns appearing. Crops that got fungicide three to four weeks ago will need an intermediate spray now, as they are still two to three weeks away from awns actively emerging.

This might be a triazole plus strobilurin mix, with folpet added to help slow ramularia progress, given all the recent crop stress.

If a PGR is needed, products like Moddus, Medax Max or Cerone would need to be applied shortly.

Frost damage: I got a report or two in the past week about what may be frost damage in winter barley. The crop looked OK, but it was still tillering and a sliced main stem revealed the developing ear to be dead and mushy. This would seem like frost kill of the developing ear after it came above ground.

It is likely that the issue is only associated with forward crops, resulting from either early sowing or a fast-developing variety. Death of the developing ear on the main stem results in the loss of apical dominance and tillering recommences as a result.

The main stem can still look perfectly healthy, but it will eventually die back. Affected crops are likely to be late maturing and chopping of straw could be easier than baling.

If this is an issue in forward winter barley, it could also be a problem in winter-sown spring oats, so check these too.

Spray app: A new Spray Assist app from Syngenta is now available. The app combines nozzle, job and weather forecast to help growers get the best efficacy from all spray applications.

It is important to get maximum benefit from all spray inputs to secure value for money. It can be downloaded to your smartphone from the app stores.