Weather: The dry weather over the past week has seen a huge amount of work done.

Winter crops are forward for the time of year and were spurred on by warm conditions last week, but cold weather this week will put a stop to growth.

Sowing has been the main order of business. However, some northern counties received rain and snow last week, which made it difficult to work in those areas.

As we move into April, seed rates should increase on spring barley crops still to be drilled. Approximately 350 seeds/m2 will be needed to establish 300 plants/m2. Compound fertiliser should be applied into the seedbed and according to soil test results to give crops the best start.

With cereal planting nearing completion, focus moves to spring oilseed rape, beet, maize and potato planting.

Nitrogen: Early sown spring cereal crops will be emerging now and nitrogen will be required. Aim to get nitrogen on to barley destined for malting when tramlines are visible.

Nitrogen should be up to date on winter barley crops at this stage. Those applying high rates, over 180kg/ha, should finish spreading by GS32. Winter wheat crops are at GS30 in many parts. The main split of nitrogen is due by GS32. Oats which are ranging from GS30-32 should receive their full complement of nitrogen by GS32.

Spraying: Winter barley crops on two-spray fungicide programmes should have received or be receiving their first fungicide in the coming days or by GS32. The application may contain an azole or an azole/strobilurin mix and an SDHI and can coincide with a plant growth regulator (PGR) application. Those on a three-spray programme will apply a similar mix but by GS33. Weather may delay this application. Temperatures look set to drop to -2°C over the weekend, which will curtail plant growth. Spraying PGR with these night-time temperatures can be very harsh on a crop and should not be done. Even where crops have not yet received PGR, growers should hold off until temperatures increase.

The cold weather can cause plant stress which can increase the risk of ramularia.

Chlorothalonil’s exit from the market makes ramularia a bigger risk. Reducing stress can reduce disease levels. Bio-stimulants can be added to a tank mix to reduce plant stress. Irish-made seaweed products are widely available. If you haven’t used them before, it might be a good year to try a field or two and compare results.

PGR should be applied to winter wheat crops at GS30/31. Crops are generally at this stage. T1s are a while off on winter wheat but keep an eye out for rust; where it is present it is best kept under control. A strobilurin or tebuconazole are good options. Oats will receive their main fungicide at GS32 and many crops in the south of the country will be near this stage by next week and may even be at it in some parts. The second PGR can be applied with an azole/strobilurin/SDHI mix along with a mildewcide.

The Crop Protection magazine is in this week’s paper. It’s a great reference guide for product rates, timings, PCS numbers and buffer zones so keep it on file.