Rats and mice I have seen evidence of both rats and mice on nurseries over the past few weeks. Rats can dig into pots and remove quantities of compost, whereas mice tend to strip the bark off the lower stems and leave the slithers of bark lying around the site of chewing. Control in tunnels is important for both your staff and plants, and trapping or control with Drat Rat Bait, Neosorexa or Tomcat 2 are effective on both. Change the product with each delivery to avoid resistance in the rat population. Natural England's best-practice guide provides good practical advice on the safe use of rodenticides. Other essential reading includes the Health & Safety Executive advisory leaflets MISC 515 and AIS 31.
Heating systems If you use diesel oil (35 second) for heaters, make sure that you have winter grade oil in the tank for the winter period or you could get fuel gelling during prolonged cold periods. For direct-fired paraffin heaters (28 second) make sure you obtain premium grade paraffin or you could get leaf scorch from the products of combustion.
Field planning With imminent changes to the nitrate vulnerable zones regime and other anti-pollution legislation concerning catchment sensitive farming, we are being encouraged to make accurate planning of next year's fertiliser programme applying only the nutrients needed by the crop. The storage of farmyard manures and the use of winter cover crops all come within the scope of these rules. Now is the time to take field soil samples for analysis. Sampling needs to be accurate - walk each field in a "W" pattern, starting away from gateways and avoiding any past lime or manure heaps.
Voluntary Initiative Keep up to date with your crop protection management plan (CPMP) as part of your Voluntary Initiative action. A new CPMP is available to download from www.voluntaryinitiative.org.uk. Don't forget to join up for the National Register of Sprayer Operators by registering your spraying staff. You should also be getting your sprayer tested under the National Sprayer Testing Scheme.
Plant imports I recently heard a statement from a European grower that some of the tree subjects they could supply would always be infected with scale insect. This is an unacceptable situation and we should not be allowing material onto our nurseries that has an inherent pest problem. Be discerning in who and where you buy your plants from.
John Adlam is the managing director of Dove Associates