Farmer Focus: Blackgrass management may go on for decades

Crops looked really well until last week then the blackgrass put its head above the wheat, thankfully it’s not as bad as previous years but we still have a couple of bad fields and a light scattering over 50% of our wheat area.

Extensive walking of our spring barley last week was a real mixed bag of emotions. Crops that got away, on the whole, are relatively clean, however, anywhere where germination was delayed due to lack of moisture have a far higher blackgrass count.

I can see there will be some problem areas that need spraying off to prevent a further increase in seed population. I can see blackgrass management going on for decades.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

A 50mm burst of rain was very welcome and should set the crops up nicely, although there are still some sizable cracks in the soil.

The problem is the rain tends to run down the cracks so you don’t always get the full benefit. Oilseed rape received its foliar nitrogen a couple of days after the rain passed through and is looking well.

But, we do have about 10m missing round every field where we didn’t spread slug pellets – I think we may need to increase the seed rate round the outside in future to help counter stewardship measures.

This spring’s weather has certainly played havoc with our elders, late frosts sent early flower heads brown and at one stage looked like they were going to fall off.

Luckily, the better weather came along and 90% survived, then it came really hot and all the florets seemed to race through their growth stages far quicker than I’ve seen before producing averaged sized heads but an abundance of them.

I try not to vent my political views on the glossy pages of Farmers Weekly and save it for the pub, but like many of you I am a parent of older teenagers who are drawn to the bright lights and glamour of our famous cities.

So whoever gets in on 8 June, I do hope they have a plan to protect those who are dearest to us.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.