With temperatures reaching the high teens in some areas in the last fortnight, some growers are carrying out field operations a month ahead of usual for the time of year.
AICC independent agronomist Patrick Stephenson, who covers northern England, says: “Farmers have held off as long as their patience would allow and are now really moving. There is no real requirement for early N but with this good spell of weather people are putting N on.”
Although ground conditions are ideal for applying N, which is a temptation for many, it could exacerbate mildew, which has appeared in winter barley and wheat crops over winter, says Mr Stephenson.
In some early drilled wheats the internode length is elongating which can deceive growers into thinking they are at GS30 when in fact leaf 1 is out but they are not as far on as this growth stage, he says.
A robust PGR programme could be needed, says Mr Stephenson. “A lot of varieties in the ground do not have the stiffest stems so PGR programmes are likely to be more robust than in recent seasons.”
Drilling of spring cereals is underway and Mr Stephenson hopes to see spring beans going in soon, providing conditions are good.
Based in Kent, Agrii agronomist Ken McTaggart says while farms in his area are applying fertiliser to cereals and oilseed rape, with the exception of a few forward crops, most are holding off on grass-weed control because it is too cold in the evenings.
Spring beans are being drilled in his area and some spring barley. “People have held back on spring barley until recently – they would rather it go in and get away than go in and get two inches of rain on it.
“It has been a very unusual fortnight with temperatures up to 14-15degC but we are still getting frosts on a night. The weather is more like March than February.”