Weather: As we push into the second half of December, it looks like 2021 could be slightly drier than the 30-year average for most parts of the country. February, May and October were the exceptionally wet months, while many others were unusually dry, especially November.

There were a lot of things about 2021 that made it worth noting in the annals of tillage farming in Ireland.

Temperatures seem set to become mixed again and soil temperature has picked up.

There is a little bit of growth evident and that will mean that the threat of BYDV has not completely passed yet.

Walk crops: It might be coldish and a bit damp at times but that will not necessarily stop problems where they occur. Most crops are in good condition with little or no patchiness and we want to keep them that way.

Take a walk through all crops in the coming days to make sure that there are no problems occurring ahead of the holiday break.

There are fewer reports of crows in recent weeks but slugs are still active in places.

A small amount of slug grazing may still not be a problem in crops that have already built a good canopy bulk. Crop colour is holding quite well too but this could change quite quickly if conditions get mild and crops try to grow again.

Soil testing: The potential benefit of soil testing cannot be over-emphasised this year. Target all pH levels to get to 6.5 or higher and correct this before building P and K much. A soil test result cannot be more than four years old to be regarded as valid.

Accurate soil test results help provide access to resources you already have in your soils.

Get soil tests taken and analysed in the coming weeks before things get busy again. Out-of-date soil tests default to Index 3 application allowances. This means maintenance P or K levels only, so you cannot legally act to increase soil fertility if you do not have up to date test results.

Also, you need a soil test for every 5ha farmed, so 100ha needs a minimum of 20 test results.

Field work: Opportunities to plant may occasionally occur, but perhaps they are best left until the new year. The risks associated with planting are much higher now and costs are too high to justify the risk.

There may be an occasional opportunity to spray autumn-sown oilseed rape crops with propyzamide-based products but other more specific herbicides might also be considered for specific problems.

Dates for your diary: The National Tillage Conference takes place online again this year on two separate dates 13 and 27 January. The first event will focus heavily on “Managing crop nutrition” with advice for growers on how to cope best with the escalating fertiliser prices in the year ahead. The second date will focus on “Pest Control Considerations and Further Research Insights” to add further to the management advice for the year ahead.