Blackgrass causes agronomist joy-ride worries

Last month I was asking for harvest help, this month I am pleading for an agri-chemist to provide a solution to the blackgrass epidemic we are currently experiencing in our wheat crops.

This is the worst year yet, even though fields have had an extremely robust herbicide programme.

Despite this, there have been several invaluable lessons learnt. The cultivation technique used to establish the wheat crop can easily be identified by the current levels of blackgrass.

The higher the grass weed burden, the higher the establishment diesel consumption.

It has also shed an interesting light on the drill. Where the land was bone dry and visibly fracturing during drilling, the blackgrass is growing in lines in the shadow of the leg. Where the land was worked to a fine tilth as recommended by the chemical companies, the blackgrass is also worse.

Due to the blackgrass, I have told my agronomist that she can keep control of the keys for the drilling tractor until she is happy that the stale seed-beds are good enough.

I do have some nagging concerns though, whether about a joy-riding agronomist on the A17 or being gazumped by a wet autumn I am not yet sure.

With the drier in, the combine serviced and harvest creeping up on us, I have decided to modify my rape drill.

It has now had more reincarnations than a VW Golf, but I like to think that each one is an improvement.

A new air seeding system and a move from solid to liquid fertiliser are the main changes, as well as the option to sow the seed as well as broadcast it.

This, I hope, will give me the confidence to drop my seed rates. Even dropping by 15 plants/s qm will save me about £3,500 a year. This money is better off in the pub landlord’s pocket than creating hassle for the accounts girl at the suppliers.

Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans.

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