I would like to be clear that I am writing this article on 20 April, which is three days into spring weather after one of the bleakest post Christmas winters and late springs that I have had to endure.

I suppose there is always something new to make life interesting but whether it is enjoyable is another matter. If you have followed these articles you will probably recall that most of our crops were well forward at Christmas.

The weather then sorted that out and made them late, only for this week’s very warm temperatures to force everything forward again. The outcome of the long wet and cold spell is very wet ground, and for the second week of April we went a whole seven days without seeing the sun appear at all, so not much drying occurred that week. Clearly applications of fertiliser and sprays, as well as spring drilling, are well behind and if these temperatures continue the comfort that it is late spring will rapidly disappear.

Oilseed rape has looked well throughout the winter on the North Downs and while we have killed a lot of pigeons on the maize field we planted – now up to 1,100 – beyond grazing around the field edges there has been remarkably little damage.

Our biggest concern with very strong crops was fear of lodging and we have used the new growth regulator Caryx quite extensively. It has certainly controlled height and has altered the plant growth habit with far more branching evident around the main stem as it elongates. Where that gets us with yield remains to be seen, but I doubt we will be seeing lodged oilseed rape crops and after last year I do not want to see any lodged crops at all.

I should add one caveat to the picture of encouraging oilseed crops, and that is the very different situation on the heavy weald clays, where the prolonged wet spring has made management difficult. Applying the first nitrogen was difficult with the application in March, rather than the preferred February and followed by the wettest week of the spring. The result has been spindly growth and early stem elongation of the crop, with the ground too wet to get back on until this week when one would have to say the crop is in yellow bud. This is really not ideal for the second nitrogen application and no doubt the outcome will be a disappointing yield. But some years there is little you can do to manage these types of heavy soils.

I have written about the black grass problems on the same soils over the years and with the amended ecological focus area (EFA) regulations we have used the fallow option to take black grass fields out of cropping for the year. We sprayed them off with glyphosate prior to Christmas and the start of the EFA fallow period when we could travel anywhere we liked. There is virtually no sign of any black grass emerging and hopefully that will continue to the end of the EFA fallow period.

If that is the case then something positive will have come from the new regulations, and it may well be how we manage the worst blackgrass fields with alternate fallow and wheat. It looks as if that will achieve better control than trying to maintain black grass free break crops of beans and oilseed.

Wheat crops are all over the place, with some crops just reaching a T0 application stage and others having received a T0 spray three weeks ago now approaching T1 timing. Disease – particularly septoria – is readily visible and between clearing up grass weeds we are trying to keep up with the crops with fungicides. A few more days’ of fine weather and we will get there. Again with nitrogen applications, most are late timing for second dressings and where we have crops that look stressed often it seems to be micronutrient deficiency as much as late nitrogen that is the cause.

As I have mentioned, we do not have the pleasure of beans, winter or spring, this year but we do have some spring barley. There is no doubt that with a late wet spring, such as this one, spring cropping really does increase the risk and workload. Half of the barley area is aimed at black grass control with some typical areas of heavier red clay flint soil. That has been like plasticine since Christmas, and we are only just moving the top now and that is the first opportunity we have had. There has been spring barley drilled in March on good soils and that is up and away but anywhere that water pooled on the surface post drilling there are barren areas. So, there was late drilling or patchy emergence. Later in the year I will know which the best choice was – it’s hindsight as ever. I am just glad that the weather has turned now because if it had gone on to the end of April I think we would be questioning whether the area of fallow should increase.

Finally, I know I have written a great deal about politics over the last few months but again I would urge you all to respond to the government command paper called “Health and Harmony; the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit.” The deadline is the 8 May: there will be no second chances and if history is any precedent then the outcome will determine agricultural policy for a very long time.

In such a diverse industry, different sectors will have different priorities. For broad acre arable and grass the loss of the direct payment ,unless replaced with something else to manage risk with volatile world markets, is going to massively increase business risk and probably business failures. Similarly, environmental schemes without buy in from farmers on something beyond income foregone are going to fail. There is the need for a common UK framework so at least our internal market post Brexit is a level playing field. Perhaps most significant of all is the current lack of any acknowledgement of maintaining domestic food production as a public good and if that was remedied most of the other things we need to see in the new agriculture bill would follow from that one change.