Farmer Focus: Hybrid barley works well to smother blackgrass

Spring drilling trials look interesting. As you would expect, where we have moved all the soil with the Simba Freeflow, blackgrass is germinating – and where we have used disc drills with minimal soil movement, virtually no blackgrass has germinated.

OK, nothing revolutionary in that. We know a flash of daylight is one of the stimulants for it to grow, so carry this knowledge over to autumn-drilled crops and it is looking likely that all our blackgrass in the current crop received its stimulant to grow from our drills.

So what is the point in running these super-low-cost drills if in fact they are adding to blackgrass pressure?

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Thankfully the 12m Freeflow is still on the drawing board and not in production. I think this autumn we will concentrate on moving any secondary cultivation as close as possible to the primary and try establishing winter crops with minimal soil movement at drilling. Well, it has got to be worth a try.

Bazooka hybrid winter barley looks stunning, with 99% of it having smothered out any blackgrass that may have been there.

But with current feed barley and barley straw prices where they are, the jury is out on whether it will feature in next year’s cropping.

Ironically, where oilseed rape follows barley it doesn’t look as good as where it follows wheat, even with the opportunity of an early stale seed-bed.

It’s getting towards elderflower-picking season again, so if anyone is looking to earn a few extra pounds why not get your local landowner’s permission – or come along to one of our orchards and pick some.

Bring them along to our factory, and as long as they are freshly picked that day we will be only too pleased to buy them from you.

Finally, good luck to the parents of kids taking exams over the next few weeks. I know the atmosphere in the Challen household will be somewhat tense while stressed-out teenagers remind us how easy A levels were in our day and that we couldn’t possibly comprehend the pressure they are under.

Funny, for once they might actually be right.

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

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