27 July 2001
Lo-till has caused grass weed and ergot problems
I have been using min cultivations for 20 years on heavy land. I have now got to the point that grass weed control is getting impossible and ergot is also a serious problem. So now I am having to go back to ploughing certain fields.
Is there any way I can avoid having to do this on the whole farm? This may not be what you want to hear, but on the bit of lighter soil I have, Ive found the plough and drill method is the most reliable and cheaper option!
Your last point first. I quite agree that on light land a fast, shallow plough can be just as cost effective a carry on!
Ergot can be encouraged by grass weeds, especially black-grass and annual meadow grass as they are also a host plant for the strain of fungus that infects wheat.
The answer is to plough to bury the sclerotia (the black bits you see in the ears) to a minimum depth of 10 cm.
I am assuming that you have a rotation which includes a break crop when I suggest that this is probably the place where you can still min till, but you MUST ensure that you control the grass weeds in this break crop.
For example, in oilseed rape use Kerb (propyzamide) plus a specific graminicide such as Laser (cycloxydim).
Ploughing down black-grass seed results in 70% control of the weed.