Last May, I was fortunate to attend the International Herbage Seed Conference in Corvallis, Oregon.
The key take-home message was the effect grassweeds and the inevitable herbicide resistance are having on production systems.
I was somewhat complacent and dismissive on this risk for us, as we still plough to break weed cycles, have a mixed species rotation and livestock in the grazing phase.
This compares with the Oregon regime of continuous, multiple grass crops, no livestock and grass-to-grass resowing giving no chance to break the weed cycle.
Well, more fool me. A critical look at our system when I got home identified scattered, stubborn grass populations and, more alarmingly, areas of recent contamination with awned seed, some of which we have found very difficult to kill.
We have struggled with haloxyfop since the highly concentrated variation was released, and we are now using clethodim where possible. This year we have also seen our first failures of pinoxaden in wheat.
Whether this problem is new, or has been quietly brewing, my trip to Oregon focused my attention, and action must be taken urgently to preserve our perennial ryegrass production quality.
My wife Jayne and our sons have spent more than enough days of the summer holidays out rouging crops, so the need for action is unanimous.
We have taken a hard look at our practices. We are already pedantic about cleaning the combine between crops, we spray out fence lines and field margins and control grassweeds right throughout the rotation.
One vector we have identified is balers coming onto the farm, and the straw and chaff they carry in.
There is no way we could expect a baler to be cleaned to the standard of our combine cleanouts, no matter how conscientious the contractor may be. Our decision was made harder by the exemplary service we receive from our contractor.
However, the only way we are going to beat this is to be a closed system. So we have purchased a 4×3 Massey Ferguson baler, and I have had my first three lessons on just how hard a baler is to clean completely.
We have a fair hill to climb to beat this, but we sure need to.