Growing weed for seed pays

10 December 1999

Growing weed for seed pays

WITH groundsel seed worth £750,000/t, growing weeds for seed is clearly more profitable than trying to control than in arable crops.

For Berks-based firm Herbiseed, growing and selling weed seed to research organisations is a major breadwinner. Herbicide susceptible blackgrass seed sells for over £100/kg, and resistant lines make up to twice that, says weed seed specialist Martin Parham.

Returns on an area basis are high. But growers tempted to try their hand at the business will need specialist knowledge and skills, he stresses. "It took us 10 years to work out our methods and we are still learning. It is not a business growers can just fall into."

Although values are high, volumes are lower. "A tonne of groundsel seed just doesnt exist."

Seed is produced on 12ha (30 acres) of land, managed to horticultural standards. "The key to what we do is grow the weeds as crops, rather than taking weeds from crops," says Mr Parham.

Plot combines are used to harvest weeds such as blackgrass or wild oats, but collecting groundsel seed is a tricky, hand-picked job, hence the price tag.

Extreme care is taken with rotations, and soil pH is manipulated to produce certain weeds. Stale-seed beds are used and crops hand-weeded where necessary. Many are hand-planted.

Wildflower and conservation mixes are also sold, and demand has increased dramatically in recent years, he notes. &#42


&#8226 Weeds as horticultural crops.

&#8226 Hand-labour often needed.

&#8226 Typical prices (£/kg) – Wild oats 40; Cleavers 75; Blackgrass 110; Groundsel 750.

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