Pine aphid: Dry weather can encourage early aphid populations on leylandii, Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, juniper and Picea spp. Feeding now can cause needle drop later in the summer period. Check vulnerable plants and spray with Aphox (IPM-friendly), Decis or Hallmark WZT (EoA 2008-2944) at this time of year. Use a wetting agent to get good penetration and coverage of these small, hard-to-see, brown aphids, usually found at the branch axils.
Grasses: Check for powdery mildew from now into February. Spray with Nimrod, Stroby WG or Systhane 20EW if required, but avoid frost.
Vine weevil: Overwintering larvae have been found in composts and soils but lower temperatures will help to limit their activity. Composts and soils need to be unfrozen, moist and above 5 degsC for Nemasys L to work effectively. Alternatively, Equity (chlorpyrifos) can be drenched into container-grown or onto field-grown crops at this time of year. Avoid frost before and after application. Check potting dates to see whether compost-incorporated insecticides will still be effective this spring.
Field crops: Make sure that you take a soil analysis of roses, trees and other overwintered field-grown stock before growth starts again. The last week of January can be dry enough to make the first nitrogen top dressing to tree crops. In line with current legislation, consider slow-release nitrogen products such as Novatec, which regulate the nitrogen flow and reduce run-off risk and water pollution.
Bedding plants: Sanitise all of your site's production areas using approved disinfectants such as Jet 5 or Menno Florades before sowing your spring seed crops. Start clean to reduce the risk of early pest and disease attack.
Weed control: Use mild days to apply contact herbicides or products that have residual properties such as Butisan S, Devrinol, Dual Gold, Flexidor 125, products containing lenacil or Springbok. Check HNS project 166 for tolerances. For established woody field-grown crops, consider Artist, Butisan S, Chikara, Devrinol, Flexidor 125, Skirmish or Sumimax (EoA 2008-2881) in good weather conditions. Avoid spraying if heavy rainfall is forecast - herbicides can be washed into the root zone, causing damage.