Battling Black-grass; We’re not doing as bad as you think!

15.07.2019

With my Farmer Focus role within BASF, I have a unique opportunity to travel the country talking to growers, in an effort to better understand the challenges they face. In a recent poll sent to our On Track Online Farming Community, an initiative that helps us ‘pulse check’ the industry, we asked the members if they felt they were winning the battle against black-grass. It may surprise you that the outcome is not as bleak as many would imagine.

The survey revealed that although there are very few growers who would agree that they are completely winning the battle against black-grass (17%), 50% do feel that they are making good progress in their fight against the problematic weed and only 3% felt they were making absolutely no progress. Whilst growers seem reluctant to make such bold statements, when one year can differ to the next, I was expecting the outcome to be more positive than in the past. Over the last four or five years the importance and effectiveness of cultural controls has been embraced, in particular spring cropping and delayed drilling. What’s also been reassuring to see is growers sharing their knowledge with each other, and learning from mistakes as well as successes.

We asked our On Track community what their top five tips for black-grass control were, and the results were relatively consistent. This to me represents the understanding that attention to detail is absolutely crucial to make sure we move forward with black-grass control. No one method, or one herbicide will ‘beat black-grass’, rather an integrated and considered effort at multiple stages throughout the year.

The top three tips voted for by our On Track online community include delayed drilling (33%), wide rotations that allow different modes of action to be used (30%) and spring cropping (30%). These three controls will make a huge difference to the levels of control you have over your existing black-grass populations. At this time of year, it’s also vitally important that you consider how to stop the spread, particularly at harvest time when combines and bailers can carry seed from field to field and even farm to farm, particularly if using contractors that don’t take sufficient care.

‘Machinery hygiene’ was only voted by 19% of our survey respondents – it would be great to see this number higher and more awareness of how important it is to keep your kit clean. There’s nothing more disheartening than working tirelessly throughout the year to keep your populations low, just to be back to square one through avoidable mistakes.

If you would like to join the On Track Community send me an email at colin.mountford-smith@basf.com