Battling Black-grass advice from Edward Vipond
Edward Vipond, Troston Farms, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Edward has been battling black-grass over the five years he has been at Troston Farms.
He manages a range of crops across 1500ha spread over 25 miles, on soils ranging from heavy clay to Breckland sands. Black-grass is particularly prevalent on the heavier soils but is by no means confined to them.
“Black-grass has been with me for far too long,” says Edward. “When I arrived here I found a fairly healthy population and I’ve been trying to get on top of it ever since.”
After the first two years he realised a change of tactics was needed to get populations down to manageable levels.
Steps included increased attention to chemistry, especially content and timing of pre-emergence stacks and post emergence options, as well as delayed drilling and targeted cultivations to maximise out-of-crop control while avoiding bringing up buried seed.
Alternative crops are also important, including forage rye to minimise seed return and spring cropping to maximise out-of-crop opportunities to control black-grass.
Edward realised he had reached a turning point last year, when he had to spray off a 4ha block of wheat in a badly-affected field. “I realised in this instance black-grass had beaten me. It was a big step to take, having spent money on seed and fertiliser, and I felt it was a bit of a failure.
“However, after the crop was harvested, I could see to a line where we’d sprayed the infested block.”
That, says Edward, was proof to be a bit braver. “If I have any advice it’s this. If black-grass is getting away you have to do something. You can’t just think it will be alright – next year comes and you have a whole bigger problem to deal with.”
While the journey is only beginning and is likely to take several years, experiences like that help him stay positive. “Having a Eureka moment like that, when you can see the results of your actions and realise you can overcome the problem if you are prepared to take appropriate action, is a real boost.
“At the moment, when it comes to black-grass, the glass is half full, definitely.”