Don’t dismiss the threat of blackgrass

As we head into the 2019 season, it’s worth revisiting your farm approach to managing the threat of blackgrass. In the northern regions, it easy to be complacent, but this can lead to an unexpected and aggressive attack on healthy crops which could cost farmers dear.

This weed commands our attention. We can learn a lot from growers further south, many who have experienced devastating consequences on crops. It needs a zero-tolerance approach, as it spreads quickly and can reduce yields by up to 50%.

Warmer winters, autumn cropping, as well as a rise in the popularity of minimal tillage practices, are all factors that increase the risk of blackgrass.

However, with some simple steps, our region can remain relatively blackgrass free.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Walk your fields regularly – no one knows your farm better than you. It’s important to collate your farm data as this will help you keep on top of your crops and manage any threat of blackgrass.

Seek an advisory service and use professional agronomists to inspect your crops – they are specifically trained to recognise this weed and, very importantly, identify it early. If you suspect blackgrass on your farm, take it very seriously. If it is a small population, roguing can effectively eliminate it. Spraying it off is another option.

Most importantly for our area, ensure any purchased machinery is properly cleaned. In our experience this is the most likely reason blackgrass is introduced to farms in the north of England and Scotland.  Also, make sure you buy seed and straw from a reputable source.

Crop rotations in the northern region generally use a wider rotation which helps in the prevention of blackgrass. This by default incorporates different cultivation techniques which all help. However, despite many factors in our favour, it’s important to remain vigilant – I can’t emphasise enough how quickly this weed spreads.

LOOKING AHEAD

To control blackgrass, consider your rotations, crop choices and cultivations. Ploughing as a form of control is extremely effective if managed correctly.

As an industry, we must look at cultural controls to deal with this problem. Herbicides are not the answer. Consider seed rates – a higher seed rate can present competition and reduce the dominance this weed can have on a crop. One other exciting development if the innovation of hybrid barley varieties, which provide natural competition for blackgrass.

Many lessons have been learnt over recent years, and as advancements are made, both at crop management level and technological, I am optimistic our industry will overcome the difficulties we have experienced with this incredibly destructive weed.  But we all need to play a role in that process to prevent its spread.

 

If you have any concerns, or would like to discuss your crop management, get in touch and we can work with you to eliminate the risk of blackgrass to your business.