It seems like spring is almost here on the Black Isle this week, with temperatures on the up and a definite milder, more spring like feeling in the air – for the time being anyway.

However, due to the ongoing wet, snow and frost, we have only managed to get about seven ha ploughed. Even the dry fields are saturated at the moment, as mam found out last week when feeding ewes with the pick-up and snacker in one of the driest stubble fields.

After getting the pick-up well and truly stuck, she realised she still needed to feed the sheep so decided to pull the snacker for about 200m round the field herself – with the 120 hungry ewes in hot pursuit. Who needs horsepower when you have the strength of an angry middle-aged woman?

Adding to her predicament, she then realised she had forgotten to take her mobile phone with her so had a two-mile hike home!

Our winter crops are starting to look a bit stressed, with one 10ha field of oilseed rape looking particularly dreadful after the snow melted. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, we found the crop to have a severe clubroot infection.

The entire field seems to be infected, so rather than spend more money on it, we have decided just to plough it in, and will likely put spring barley in.

Clubroot isn’t something we have ever had a problem with in the past, but the field in question is part of farm we have contract farmed for the last seven or so years, so we don’t really know in detail exactly what the rotation was before we took it on. We did have the field in OSR four years ago, but had no obvious issues with clubroot so weren’t too worried about taking the opportunity to get it back in after spring harvested carrots.

We try to avoid OSR more than once every seven years in our rotation and this is a good example of why we should have kept to that. The infection is likely to have been exacerbated by the wet weather and it may be that a small undetected area of the field had an issue in previous years, but a wet autumn and winter this year has spread it throughout the crop.

The field is also on our list to soil map this year as it hasn’t been mapped or limed since 2013, so there is the potential that a pH problem is also playing its part. We have sent off tissue samples this week from the rest of our OSR crops to see if light leaf spot has crept in over the winter, which will influence spring spraying decisions – if it ever dries up that is, which I am seriously starting to doubt.

Due to the weather, we didn’t get on with a protectant light leaf spot spray in the autumn and we will just have to wait and see what impact that has on disease pressure and ultimately on yield.