Farmer Focus Arable: Will Howe explores blackgrass control options

It is relatively rare in this HD/3D/special effect era that viewers can be truly touched by the inner strength of what is no more than a member of the public.

However, the tale of Mike Campbell and his son-in-law Ben Freeth and their struggle against the tyranny of President Mugabe was truly inspirational. It has certainly put into context our battles with the RPA and other forms of less radical bureaucracy.

The farm at the moment is very much a tale of two halves. The break crops are all looking extremely well, while the wheat is struggling with a lack of moisture and less than convincing blackgrass control. I am having one or two very bad patches appear so there will have to be a change in my farming system somewhere.

The first two changes have been made. I have changed my primary cultivator to one which will hopefully allow a one-pass stale seed-bed to be created, and second, I have employed a student to drive it, hopefully adding a little more timeliness.

A small area of spring cropping will also probably have to enter into the rotation. This should hopefully allow a couple of glyphosate sprays to tackle the weeds. Having the land uncropped will also help me deal with some field drainage issues that have arisen from my prisoner of war installed drains. Blackgrass is a native marsh plant, so theory would suggest that well drained fields would be less to its liking.

I’m sure many of you will be shouting at the page that the only answer is the plough. This is very much a last resort, because I don’t think it will help the weed situation while inadvertently destroying the last five years’ good work of trying to improve the soil content and structure.

But more importantly, I have a relatively short attention span which the ploughing and subsequent power harrow passes could only exacerbate.

• Read more from Will Howe here.

• See our other Arable Farmer Focus writers.

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