Farmer Focus: Drone deployed to map blackgrass burden

Harvest has kicked off to a damp start across the country. Winter barley here was hampered slightly by the weather, but luckily it was able to be combined dry.

With no weighbridge on the farm, the exact yield is not yet known, but first impressions are that it has done OK.

By the time you read this, hopefully the wheat harvest will have started and we will have an indication of how yields look after the dry weather earlier this year.

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It’s an exciting harvest for me. From October I will be taking on my own farm tenancy, so the lead-up to harvest has been a busy combination of ensuring that machinery is ready and that I have a plan in terms of autumn ground work and cropping.

The farm is all cereal crops this year, which means I will have no opportunity to grow any first wheat, so there is an added pressure to grow a decent area of break crops – something that anyone looking to replace rapeseed in their rotation knows isn’t an easy task.

Blackgrass burden

Blackgrass is the other obvious challenge. With no historical knowledge on which to help base decisions initially, I can only look at what blackgrass is in this year’s crops before harvest to gauge an idea of the problem.

To help with this I have enlisted the help of a drone (and someone qualified to fly it) to take aerial photos of the fields.

These have been stitched together to form a high-definition photo in which the worst blackgrass areas are clearly visible.

This will serve as a reference point in future months when I forget the exact locations, and can be imported into Gatekeeper and used along with Soilquest soil scanning zones to produce variable seed rate maps, with areas with high blackgrass populations receiving a higher seed rate.

Here’s to a dry harvest – but not as dry as last year – and a safe one. It’s Farm Safety Week as I write this, but it should be farm safety week every week – the industry needs to improve drastically, so let’s all start now.


Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.