7 November 1997

Time is key to grubbing

PLANTING coppice may be simple enough. But many growers expect big problems when the time comes to return the area to conventional cropping.

Patience rather than effort seems to be the key according to work carried out by Greg Forbes at the Northern Ireland Horticultural and Plant Breeding Station.

Stumps on a 12-year-old 2.2ha (5.4-acre) willow coppice plantation were sprayed with glyphosate after harvest at the end of August and left over winter. Stools became brittle and started to decay.

A further spray was applied in spring to kill weeds, and the following September the site was mulched twice with a Votex shredder to incorporate residues into the top few inches of soil.

The site was then disced and harrowed, and grass was sown. It was grazed the following spring, and a crop of hay taken in the summer.

Arable crops could be grown, provided the ground was not ploughed, Mr Forbes believes. "Ploughing would defeat the purpose since roots are largely intact. But after 2-3 years they should be sufficiently decayed."

Extra nitrogen may also be needed to compensate for large amounts removed by bacteria breaking down roots, he adds.n