Agronomist, Darryl Shailes says growers must be very mindful of management this spring to ensure crop gets to the 12-leaf stage as quickly as possible.
The spring like February weather with sunshine and 16degC temps has changed to a more normal early March with rain, frost and high winds.
The plants in the garden had a bit of a shock after they awoke early from their winter slumber and then weather then changed, but at least we managed to get the grass cut as it was also pretty dry for the time of year.
Unlike last year, when we were not able to cut it until after Easter as the majority of it was either under water or too wet to travel on. Although I am pretty sure that it was still growing when covered with a foot of water.
The early spring like weather has had big effect on the aphid issues we are likely to encounter and the BBRO model for virus prediction has been greatly influenced by the very warm days and nights in February.
BBRO have said that, depending on drilling date, their model predicts that the crop could potentially get between 29.9 and 54.3 % infection in the eastern region with slightly less in the north.
This means that growers and agronomists will need to be very vigilant as soon as beet are emerging and the aphids start migrating.
Historically and pre-neonicotinoid seed dressings the worst area for virus yellows was generally around the wash into Lincolnshire.
This was thought to be due to the large number of brassicas vegetable crops in that area, acting as the perfect host for myzus persicae to over winter in. Then when the spring came, they migrated into the new sugar beet crop infecting them with virus.
Now there are many more new overwintering hosts, not just in South Lincinolnshire with all the oilseed rape in the beet growing areas.
The BBRO recently re-tweeted a photo from a French grower showing the huge number of overwintering myzus in his rape and the same will be happening in many UK crops. The French growers are in the same boat as us with no neonic treated seed available to them.
So, we must be very mindful of our management this coming spring in ensuring the crop gets to the 12-leaf stage as quickly as possible by all the means available to us. Follow the BBRO bulletins about aphid migration and make sure the timing of the insecticides available to us is accurate to reduce the potential virus infection.
This early kind weather also meant that some potato fields were also planted well ahead of schedule, not quite like our colleagues in Cornwall who start planting it appears when some are still lifting in East Anglia, but still much earlier than I can remember.
It will be interesting so see how they fare especially the ones that are not under fleece or plastic.
One big challenge we will face this coming season in potatoes are the changes to the label on Maleic Hydrazide.
The new label states that Maleic treated crop will not be allowed to be fed to livestock, so managing the waste from crops with this restriction may be very challenging. This change coupled with the issues around CIPC will make it difficult storing processing crops in ambient stores into the New Year.
On a happier note I recently spent a day with some growers and my colleague Dick Neale our in-house soil and worm guru.
We were digging holes, looking at cultivations and how they affect earth worm populations and soil health. It was fascinating to look at the deep burrowing Anecic worms, how we can spot them in the field from their soil surface activity, their relationship and happy co-existence with the Endogeic shallow horizontal burrowers and the benefits they bring to the crops we grow.
At a recent meeting I attended it was claimed that the smell from fresh soil and compost releases endorphins relaxes us and makes us happy. So maybe that was why I was so relaxed when I got home that I fell asleep on the sofa, or was it all that fresh air and digging?