What a change: While some fields have been slower to dry, the situation on the land this week is certainly much better than a week ago.
Some are out planting while most others have been able to get out with other essentials like sprays and fertiliser.
While all jobs need to be done, target the essentials on existing crops as soon as possible and then it’s back to planting when conditions are good enough.
Beans are the priority and after that it’s a toss-up between oats, wheat and malting barley. Growth levels are still low and that eases the pressure for feeding.
Fertiliser: While it may not be essential just yet, use this opportunity to get N, P and K out on winter crops. Arguably the P and K are more important than N until growth speeds up. Winter rape and winter barley are the priorities for N and they need their full first split N application now, if not applied already.
Try to get all your P applied in this first application and you can top up extra K later if needed.
Nitrogen rates might be 60-70kg N/ha on winter barley and 40-50kg on wheat and oats – some crops may need a bit more of a push. Rape should be fertilised to drive the required canopy.
Do not forget the importance of correct pH – above 6.5 for all barley crops and closer to 7.0 for rape and beans.
This could mean the application of some granular lime now in spring if the pH levels are not adequate for the crop.
Sulphur will also be important in most fields, especially on light worn land that has not been getting organic manures. Recommended rate is normally around or above 15kg S/ha for cereals and 25-30kg on winter oilseed rape, with higher rates on lighter land. This can be applied with any of the fertiliser applications.
For spring crops, combine drilling at least some of the compound fertiliser remains very beneficial, especially where soil fertility is low. Such crops will show visibly faster early-season growth when the bulk is being formed in the crop. Where trace elements are known to be deficient, consider the use of WolfTrax micronutrients on your fertiliser to prevent the appearance of symptoms and loss of yield potential.
Planting: Beans are the priority, closely followed by oats, wheat and malting barley. The crop should be planted based on seed number and target 35-40 seeds/m2 to establish around 30 plants/m2. This will mean between 170 and 210kg/ha (11-13 st/ac) for seed between 450g to 550g TGW, assuming 80% establishment. If soil fertility is low (less than Index 3) it is important to get fertiliser into the seedbed.
Aim to plant spring wheat at about 320-350 seeds/m2 or 160-190 kg/ha (10-12 st/ac) (assuming 45-50g TGW). Drill barley at 350-375 seeds/m2 – 160-175 kg/ha (10-11 st/ac) for 45g seed. Target oats at about 350-400 seeds/m2 – 125-146 kg/ha (8-9 st/ac) for 35g seed. A good seedbed remains more important than planting date for all spring crops, so do not muck crops in just to have them sown.