7 May 1999

QUALITY GRASS

Wet weather dogged the

preparation of the Grassland

99 site. But it came right

in the end, with grass

looking good for May 19/20

GROWING the grass for Kemira Grassland 99 started with the end of the cereal harvest at the RASEs Crewe Farm in August 1998.

Soil samples were taken and the site was subsoiled and ploughed. Unsettled weather then delayed work for several weeks; this gave cause for concern, both because of the need to get the crop established by early autumn and the lack of any indication of settled, dry weather ahead.

Eventually there was a short period of dry weather – and intense activity – in early September. Seed-bed fertiliser was applied, based on the earlier soil analysis results.

The treatment was 2.5 bags/acre of Kemira Number Four, a granular NPK compound with an analysis of 15.15.20. The seed-bed was then prepared by a series of passes with a power harrow and a final pass with a Cambridge roll.

Grass seed was then broadcast onto the seed-bed using a pneumatic fertiliser spreader, before another pass with the Cambridge roll. The seeding operation was completed by mid-September, quite an achievement during some very unsettled weather.

Next came an application of Dursban 4 insecticide before the emergence of the grass seedlings. This was used to control frit fly, which can have a devastating effect on the establishment of new leys if left unchecked.

The treatment was a success because, with warm and moist soil conditions, the grass seedlings rapidly emerged. By the end of October, the new grass crop was well established.

However, the continuing wet weather encouraged a great deal of slug activity. Slug pellets were applied to the whole area, and in one field in particular, several doses were needed for effective control. At this stage, various weed problems were also becoming apparent.

Volunteer oilseed rape plants in some of the fields were supplemented by the usual selection of weeds on this site – chickweed, cleavers and mayweed, plus annual meadowgrass.

In addition, because of the mild, wet conditions, the young grass plants were growing rapidly and this meant removal of the surplus growth by sheep grazing.

Leyclene at 5 litres/ha was selected as the herbicide treatment, and the intention was to apply this in November, followed at a suitable interval by the sheep. Unfortunately the ground became too wet to spray, and it was decided to graze first.

The site was grazed by 500 sheep during December and January. They did an excellent job removing the surplus growth and encouraging the grass to thicken out, but by mid-Jan were beginning to poach the ground and were therefore removed.

Spraying for weed control was still needed, and this was initially attempted in the first week of February. The wet conditions, however, meant that the tractor actually sank into the ground at one point and had to be towed out.

Because the timing of the herbicide treatment was becoming critical, two low ground pressure vehicles were used – one belonging to the RASE and the other contracted in – and spraying was completed by mid-February.

With the wet weather continuing, the spring fertiliser top dressing finally took place in mid-March, even though the T-Sum figure was reached in the first week of February. This was an application of Kemiras Premier Cut (20.8.12) fertiliser at a rate of 4.5 bags/acre, following a flat roll – bringing the main Grassland 99 site work to an end, and all designed to provide a quality crop of grass on May 19. &#42