Since the rain has started to fall across the UK, I've had several people asking about the final nitrogen applications on a number of crops. Unsurprisingly, there's quite a lot to consider so we've put together a two-part blog series to help you address all of the key information.
In this first blog I've compiled some advice on final nitrogen decisions for the main arable crops, taking into account overall conditions we've seen this season and what they mean for final doses on oilseed rape, winter wheat and spring cereal crops.
With April quite literally around the corner and early nitrogen doses now applied, it's an opportune time to reflect on what's happened so far this season and factor in decisions for future applications. I believe it's always sensible to constantly question the fertiliser plans and programmes made earlier in the season and it's not to say they are wrong, it's to check they are still right!
We've certainly seen Mother Nature go from one extreme to the next in recent months. Given the incredibly dry April and May experienced this spring, it is difficult to comprehend that February was actually the wettest on record. Let us not forget that this also followed the consistently above-average rainfall throughout autumn and winter too.
However, a generally kind March and early April allowed for some substantial spring cropping. While somewhat of a forced change for many, this - coupled with the extremes in weather - has significantly impacted the nutrition requirements for this and potentially next year's crops.
As I write this, glancing out of the window to look at blue skies over dry soil, it's all too easy to forget the extremely wet autumn and winter we all endured. Clearly, this posed a massive challenge for establishing autumn crops and has led to one of the smallest winter wheat areas we've seen for decades.
It did, though, also cause large amounts of mobile nutrients like nitrogen and sulphur to be leached out of the soil, meaning we started spring growth with very low levels naturally available. Indeed...
The recent dry weather has been incredibly welcome and has finally allowed drills, sprayers and fertiliser spreaders to roll across the country. But, dare I ask, how long will it be before we're looking for some fresh rain?!
There is clearly a massive variation in growth stage and condition of the autumn crops across the country, but the more forward crops have started to get hold of applied nitrogen and actually look quite good .At the other extreme, some of the most backward crops are not that far ahead of the spring cereals that are now going in the ground. As long as reasonable seedbeds can be achieved and drilling doesn't get delayed, the potential for these spring crops should be good.